Joe Cole emerged from the World Cup this summer as a man in demand. Despite calls throughout the tournament for the newly-released Chelsea star to start, England boss Fabio Capello didn’t cave in to public demand and left Cole on the bench for the most part. The precocious talent the former West Ham man has was available for free to anyone who would have him.
Both Liverpool and Tottenham were public suitors of Cole; both showed a willingness to shower him with the affection he desired and needed to perform. Spurs boss Harry Redknapp fawned over the talents of Cole consistently and believed the man he managed during their time together at West Ham was on his way to Spurs Lodge. Faced with the prospect of the Spurs shirt or the Liverpool shirt, Cole chose red. It now looks as though joining Roy Hodgson’s red revolution was a mistake.
Hodgson is now fighting for his job after overseeing Liverpool’s worst start to a season since they were relegated in the 1950’s, and any semblance of form Cole found in the build up to the World Cup has evaporated into thin air. The problem facing him is that he is seen as somewhat of a luxury, an auxiliary performer who can execute a back heel better than a defence splitting pass.
Now, most know this isn’t the truth; anyone who saw Cole under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea would know he can affect a game more than possibly any other Englishman out there, but in a relegation battle the persona of Jamie Carragher’s committed hard man fits more than that of Joe Cole’s fleet footed trickster.
Contrast this with Tottenham, a team occupying a position near the top of the table that Liverpool once held themselves and playing in a style befitting of Cole himself. The play between Van der Vart, Modric, Bale and Cole would have been something to behold. Instead he finds himself linking up with David N’Gog and Paul Konchesky.
Cole bought his manager some time with a much needed winner against Bolton last week, and his decision to choose Anfield over White Hart Lane may yet be validated. But if it is not and he goes down with the sinking ship at Anfield history will not be so kind to him. He may well be remembered as a wasted talent, a man who had the world at his feet but could not utilise it.
Obstacles have stood in his way and prevented him from becoming one of the world’s finest players, and there is no doubt he has the talent to be so. History tends to be kind to the victorious and successful and forgets the rest.
David Beckham for example, will be remembered as an all-time England great, yet a man with twice his footballing ability will be merely a footnote unless he and Liverpool manage to turn it around. The grass is always greener on the other side, but Cole may come to regret the decision he made last summer.
By Pete South