It is six-and-a-half-years since Cole last played for the the Reds, the England youth international scoring seven goals in 23 appearances on loan from Manchester City.
The 26-year-old has since had spells with Bradford City (in 2015-16) and Doncaster Rovers (2020) without fulfilling the potential he showed as a younger. Being the son of former Manchester United, Newcastle United and England striker Andy only increased expectations.
But Cole was Motherwell’s top-scorer with 12 goals last season and Barnsley, who have proved shrewd at identifying players well suited to their 3-4-3 formation, will be hoping for a more mature and complete forward this time around.
For Cole it will be about rekindling old memories.
“I’m really happy to be back,” he said. “I was here a good few years ago and I really enjoyed my time. I kind of wish I didn’t leave, so it feels good to be back.
“The fans were always great and it was a good group of boys then, and I’ve heard it’s a very good group now so, hopefully, it can be the same again and more successful.
“I can’t wait to go. It’s a new challenge – well, it feels new but I’ve been here before for a few months so I just can’t wait to go again.”
On joining Doncaster on a six-month deal in January, 2020, Cole spoke of wanting to play Championship football again.
Barnsley reached last season’s play-off semi-finals on the back of an interchangeable front three they got the ball to quickly but the star of it, Daryl Dike, has returned to Orlando City because the cost of making his loan permanent was deemed prohibitive.
Coach Valerien Ismael described Cole, who has also played for Fleetwood Town, Wigan Athletic, Milton Keynes Dons and Burton Albion as “a player with lots of ability (who) has shown that he can score goals. I am confident that he complements our existing philosophy and style of play.”
Ismael added: “It is important that we continue to progress as a club and getting this deal done so quickly is a clear indication that we intend to be competitive next season.”
To do business quickly also sends a message to Ismael and those players who are in demand elsewhere after such an impressive 2020-21, although this can only be the start.