A finishing process north of the border at Motherwell, a place renowned for steel, may well have been the making of him.
Having just turned 26, Cole, who signed a three-year deal with Barnsley on Tuesday, is no longer a kid anymore, like he was when he joined on a half-season loan from Manchester City in August, 2014.
Spells with six other English clubs – including stints at fellow Yorkshire sides Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers – followed before Cole found himself looking for a club last summer alongside scores of players handed a dose of reality amid tough Covid times.
Cole, son of ex-Manchester United and England striker Andy, dug deep and secured a permanent move to SPL side Motherwell last October and was top-scorer for the Steelmen in 2020-21 with 12 goals.
Cole told The Yorkshire Post: “This time last year, I was waiting to find a club and picking somewhere that I felt would be right. It was a hard time because no-one really knew what they were doing in all of football.
“It (Covid) made the situation worse by five or ten times. Everything changed and nothing was in your control and you were thinking: ‘where does it stop and where do I end up in this?’
“I was just training by myself with other people in a similar position and trying to keep fit.
“Moving up to Scotland was far away from everything and having my parents in London, it was even further away.
“For me, it was just about going up there to give my all, otherwise it was a waste of six months and there was no point in me going up.
“I did that and settled down and it showed on the pitch. You are away from everything you have ever known and in that sense, it was time to fully grow up and get my head down.”
Eleven of Cole’s goals last term arrived in 2021. It is a head-turning figure which was enough to warrant the attention of Barnsley, also linked with a move for Watford striker Stipe Perica.
The offer of a three-year deal to Cole – whose contract at Motherwell ran out at the end of ’20-21 – spoke volumes about head coach Valerien Ismael’s desire to recruit the forward, who can play out wide and centrally in an attacking three and offers another pacy outlet.
Cole added: “He said: ‘I want you to play centrally and go and do what you do – I have seen you play before.’ Straightaway, that is that bit of confidence from him in knowing I can play in different systems and help him. He knew everything about me.
“I got a good feel of him and he got a good feel of me and I am looking forward to getting started with him.
“When the three years was offered, that shows a vote of confidence in me and when you see things like that, you definitely have to take them in football.
“I think the interest had been there for a few months. But I did not want to really think anything of it while I was still playing and I just thought it is never solid until someone offers you something.
“For any player who learns of a bit of interest, you probably do start taking a bit more notice of that club. I had always looked out a bit more (for Barnsley) as I’d played there before.
“They had a great season and I watched the play-off games and maybe a game or two before that. I just thought it was an energetic team and a lot of teams could not handle them.”