Cole can be Eng­land’s trump card

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport -

THE FIRST game of Eng­land’s qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign for the 2010 World Cup is a dim mem­ory now but if this run ends with a fi­nal in Jo­han­nes­burg, it is worth not­ing that it be­gan with two goals from Joe Cole at the Olympic Sta­dium in Mon­tjuic, Barcelona.

It would be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to claim that they saved Fabio Capello’s skin, but at half-time in his first game against An­dorra, his new Eng­land team had fared no bet­ter than the old Eng­land team un­der Steve McClaren, and the score was 0-0. It was at this point that Capello asked Stu­art Pearce, the Eng­land un­der-21 man­ager, what he would do as they walked to­wards the tun­nel. Pearce said he would give the start­ing XI an­other 10 min­utes and, if they were still without a break­through, make changes. Capello walked in and im­me­di­ately hooked two play­ers, Ste­wart Down­ing and Jer­main De­foe, for Cole and Emile Heskey.

Within 10 min­utes of the sec­ond­half restart, the time that Pearce was go­ing to use to wait and see, Eng­land were 2-0 up and Cole had scored both. That is why Capello is capo di tutti capi and why Cole, whose sea­son is only now beginning af­ter in­jury, re­mains one of the most im­por­tant play­ers in Eng­land.

He may not make Capello’s start­ing XI but there is no more sig­nif­i­cant mem­ber of his squad. Talk­ing with Steven Ger­rard last week, the sub­ject of the land­mark 4-1 win in Croa­tia came up and it was not un­til Ger­rard men­tioned watch­ing it with friends that I re­called he was not on the pitch for the game that slipped the Capello

era into top gear. Cole played in Za­greb, un­til re­moved by the bru­tal Robert Ko­vac, but not be­fore Eng­land had es­tab­lished a lead.

Ger­rard re­gained his place, ob­vi­ously, but if he was to be in­jured, the out­stand­ing can­di­date to take his free role, start­ing on the left, would be Cole. The same is true of Wayne Rooney, the sup­port striker for Emile Heskey. In his ab­sence, ei­ther Cole would take his place, or Ger­rard, with Cole mov­ing to his po­si­tion. If Eng­land lost their fast wide men, Aaron Len­non, Theo Wal­cott or Shaun Wright-Phillips, Cole could play right side mid­field, or swap with Ger­rard again. His re­turn in a Chelsea shirt not only solves the teething dif­fi­cul­ties of Carlo Ancelotti’s di­a­mond for­ma­tion, it gives Eng­land op­tions that were sorely missed. David Beck­ham is no al­ter­na­tive to a light­ning fast winger, but Cole is; he has a com­plex­ity to his game that goes far be­yond be­ing good with a dead ball when the play stops.

It was Cole who for a long pe­riod solved the prob­lem on Eng­land’s left mid­field un­der Sven Go­ran Eriks­son. In the des­per­ately dis­ap­point­ing 2006 World Cup fi­nals cam­paign, his dis­play in the group game with Swe­den in Cologne was one of the few mo­ments of bright­ness from an Eng­land for­ward.

It would seem Capello has his start­ing line-up and Cole is not in it, but that does not mean he will not be a key player this sum­mer; in­deed, he could still fin­ish the World Cup cam­paign as he started it. And wouldn’t that be some­thing?

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