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Monday, April 29, 2002
Carlton wants to honour contract

Chelsea have given exciting young striker Carlton Cole a five-year contract after his goalscoring full debut against Middlesbrough.

Cole: Five-year deal
The 6ft 3ins trainee striker, who was 18 in November, is highly-rated by Chelsea after scoring 36 goals in reserve and youth team football this season and the West London club were keen to head off potential interest from rivals.

Cole, who only played in Saturday's 2-0 win over Middlesbrough because Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink pulled out just before the start with a calf injury, scored his first senior goal when he headed in after 38 minutes and staked a claim for a place in Chelsea's FA Cup Final squad.

Chelsea scored a second through Boudewijn Zenden just before half-time but it was Cole's excellent performance at the Riverside Stadium, where he gave England internationals Ugo Ehiogu and Colin Cooper a rough ride, that took the eye and he has given head coach Claudio Ranieri a selection dilemma for Saturday's Final against Arsenal in Cardiff.

Ranieri said: 'I was happy with Carlton's performance. He came in and did well. He scored a good goal, held up the ball well and became more confident. He deserves to be in the squad for the Final but in England you can only have five players on the bench - in the rest of the world it's six. It's difficult for me but I hope he can be on the bench.'

This was only Cole's second first team appearance - the Surrey-born striker came on as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge on 6 April - and afterwards he said: 'I'm still pinching myself after what's happened to me.

'I'm thinking about playing in the Cup Final and if I play I'll give it my all. It would be fantastic to be involved and a dream come true to come on in the Cup Final.

'The coach told me to treat the Middlesbrough game like a reserve match and that's why I was so relaxed. But I don't think I'll be able to do the same with the Cup Final.

'The coach knows I'm around. I've made my mark. It was fantastic just to be on the same pitch as Paul Ince, whom I've admired for a long time.

'I've done nothing yet but already I know I want to finish my career at Stamford Bridge.'

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates has already predicted Cole will go on to play for England and team-mate Mario Melchiot said: 'Carlton has just started and he's a young guy but he's got great talent.

'With his height people expect him just to be good in the air. What you don't expect is for him to be as quick and as skilful as he is.

'He's a good lad who always wants to play. This was only his first start and for him to have finished with a goal must be the best debut ever. He has been in the squad for a bit now and deserves to be there for the Final and I for one will be happy if he is.'

Hasselbaink, who picked up his injury when he slipped while jogging in the warm-up, is expected to be fit for Saturday's all-London Final but was today undergoing a scan as a precaution.

'Jimmy will be OK for the Final,' said Ranieri. 'It was just a precaution not to play him because his calf felt tight.'

Ranieri also left Hasselbaink's strike partner Eidur Gudjohnsen on the bench against Middlesbrough as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Graeme Le Saux, who tore a calf muscle in the semi-final against Fulham, is back jogging but is still rated at 50-50 for the Final.

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