Devante Cole has the art of goalscoring in his blood, as the son of Manchester United legend Andy, and hopes the experiences of his past will help to shape a future at the very top of the game.
The 22-year-old has been following in his father’s footsteps since the age of seven, when he joined the academy system at Manchester City and took the first of his own tentative steps down a path towards the professional ranks.
He is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, to have eventually been forced away from the Etihad Stadium in search of recognition and game time, with a release in 2015 leading him to Bradford City and now Fleetwood Town.
Cole is fortunate that he still has a Premier League schooling to fall back on, with the promising frontman having been made aware during his time at City of the standard required to compete at that level – with Sergio Aguero setting the benchmark for him and countless other striking hopefuls.
Chatting to Goal at a Papa John’s event where the pizza brand was unveiled as League One side Fleetwood’s new sponsor, Cole said: “When I trained with him [Aguero], I would look at him and feel that’s the level you have to get to ultimately.
“He’s different class. The things he does in training, the finishing and touches, that’s the level. He’s very special. He almost does what he wants. He can just turn it on and that’s the level he’s at.”
Cole added on his mentors at City: “There was [Edin] Dzeko and [Alvaro] Negredo, and another one I learned a lot from was [Emmanuel] Adebayor, who was there when I first went up [to the first team]. Not a lot of people realise how good he is, because for me he’s one of the best I have seen. He’s got everything.”
Having stepped out of the shadow of international superstars in Manchester, Cole is now back in Lancashire and looking to emulate the achievements of another Premier League superstar who spent time at Highbury before getting his big break further up the ladder.
On former Cod Army favourite Jamie Vardy, who he is set to come up against on Saturday when taking on Leicester City in the FA Cup third round, Cole said: “I think you look at his story and everyone thinks ‘that’s a great success story’, so that can’t not inspire you. I feel like, what he is and what he’s done, if I could do that or another player could do that, I think that’s the aim.”
While being an admirer of England international Vardy, Cole is also a fan of Arsenal’s record signing Alexandre Lacazette and fellow City academy graduate Daniel Sturridge, adding: “I’m not so much a Sturridge type, it’s about making your own way. I’m making mine now. Sturridge did the same, he moved to a few different places before he got in and started doing the business. Hopefully I can do the same.”
Gracing a Premier League stage at some point in the future remains the ultimate target for Cole, with it up to him to prove that his potential can be fully unlocked and that taking a step backwards was the best idea in eventually helping him establish forward momentum.
He said: “Any player’s aim is to do well while you are in the team and if that leads to moving on, then you take it. But I just need to focus on the next game, do well against Leicester, score goals. Ultimately it is my ambition to get there, I just need to work hard and see what happens.
“Everyone is different and I have done it my way. I’ve had to take a step backwards to go forwards so hopefully now I can really kick on, step forward again and get back to where I really want to be.”
Impressing against Leicester would do that cause no harm, with Cole about to be pitched into battle with a side that toasted a remarkable Premier League title triumph just 18 months ago.
“We’re trying to approach it like any other game,” Cole added on the challenge which lies ahead.
“Obviously it’s the biggest game for Fleetwood for a while, and probably for a lot of us, but I think we’ve just got to treat it like any other game. When it comes to matchday, we have just got to go out and play like we can and see what happens.
“It’s a massive platform – it’s against a Premier League side and they won the title a couple of years ago. It’s huge and there will be a lot of people watching. It’s one of those where if the club performs well or you perform well, it’s good for everyone.”
Cole will, however, be denied the opportunity to test himself against title-winning centre-half Wes Morgan, with the Leicester captain having suffered an untimely injury.
“I would have loved that challenge,” said the Fleetwood star.
“As a player you always want to test yourself against the best players, or whoever the best players are for that team. I would rather he would be in the team.”
While Cole will have to make do with terrorising other Foxes this weekend, he is clearly a driven young frontman – one with 12 goals to his name this season and one who could get the opportunity to put what he learned from Aguero and Co. to good use under the brightest of spotlights on a more regular basis at some point in the years to come.
Papa John’s are sponsoring Fleetwood Town ahead of their big match by backing the underdogs with a special Jamie Vardy inspired promotion where fans can get a large pizza for £9.99 (RRP £18.99). Order now.