The disarming nonchalance Cole Palmer has shown throughout his debut season at Chelsea can mask how little top-flight experience the 21-year-old possessed before moving to west London.
Palmer joined Manchester City as a six-year-old but was only afforded three Premier League starts in Pep Guardiola’s superteam. Chelsea paid £42.5m for an attacking midfielder with promise but one with fewer league goals (zero) or assists (one) than Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson (one goal, three assists).
The gamble has well and truly paid off. Even in Mauricio Pochettino’s chaotic squad, Palmer has effortlessly excelled, strolling through games and stroking the ball into the back of the net with alarming regularity. Before the halfway stage of his debut campaign, Palmer had already scored more Premier League goals than any Chelsea player managed across the entirety of the previous season.
On such a prolific run, Palmer has had ample opportunity to craft a trademark goal celebration. The player fittingly known as ‘Cold Palmer’ has taken to shivering after his recent strikes, but the meaning behind the move goes deeper than his nickname.
Palmer traded ‘Cole’ in for ‘Cold’ within weeks of his arrival at Chelsea. The ephemeral left-footer became just the second 21-year-old to ever score a Premier League penalty for the Blues on his first league start against Burnley and underscored his reputation for extreme composure when Arsenal visited Stamford Bridge the following week.
In the face of Raheem Sterling’s clawing advances, Palmer shrugged off his former City teammate to take and convert a first-half penalty against the Gunners. When Guardiola’s City side arrived in west London, there was no debate as Palmer assumed responsibility in stoppage time, coolly slotting a 95th-minute spot kick against a goalkeeper he called his colleague just three months earlier.
However, Palmer celebrated that nerveless penalty with a nonchalant shrug. “I can’t really go and celebrate how I would [normally] celebrate if I have scored a 95th-minute equaliser because it would have been disrespectful,” Palmer explained, “so I just decided to do a shrug. I don’t know why.”
It wasn’t until Chelsea’s trip to Luton Town for their final game of 2023 that Palmer unveiled a celebration that perfectly captured his start to life with the Blues. There weren’t enough cool heads in Luton’s backline as the hosts cheaply coughed up possession in their own defensive third. Palmer pounced and belted Chelsea into a first-half lead, wheeling away before rubbing his arms and staring down the lens of the nearest camera.
Palmer made it 3-0 to the visitors in the 70th minute with an even better goal, rolling the ball around Luton’s befuddled goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, taking a beat while orange shirts crashed past him like fire engines barrelling towards the wrong fire, before tucking in an icy finish.
After the game, Noni Madueke, a friend of Palmer since their teenage years in England’s youth team, triumphantly declared: “That’s why we call him Cold Palmer!”
After Chelsea’s victory over Luton, Palmer was quick to point out that his former Manchester City academy teammate Morgan Rogers was the author behind the shivering stance.
“My boy Morgs did one for Middlesbrough,” Palmer revealed, referencing Rogers’ celebration against West Bromwich Albion in the Championship seven days before Chelsea took to the Kenilworth Road pitch, “so I told him I’d do it too if I scored.”
Rogers had also performed his shivering celebration in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals against Port Vale earlier that month. By spanking a stunning strike past Connor Ripley (son of former Premier League winner Stuart Ripley) in a 3-0 win, Rogers helped set up a two-legged semi-final against Palmer’s Chelsea.
Suspension kept Rogers out of the first leg but Middlesbrough earned a 1-0 victory in his absence. Palmer missed two glorious chances to score and perform Rogers’ celebration at his own home ground.
While teeth chatter among the fans in the crowd, keep an eye on the shivering figures on the pitch when the pair face off for the second leg at Stamford Bridge on 23 January.