Sunday 26 January 2020

All Joe needs is love -- and an adoring Kop can provide it in spades

Mark Fleming

In the end, it was the football that swung it for Joe Cole. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal were both waving tempting offers in his direction, but neither club could promise quite the security that Roy Hodgson was all but guaranteeing at Liverpool.

Not financial security, for he could have earned similar amounts to the £90,000-a-week deal his agents have negotiated with Liverpool at either London club.

But Cole wants footballing security, the comfort that comes from knowing the manager likes you and wants to put you in the team, the kind of security that Cole once enjoyed at West Ham seven years ago but he never really felt at Chelsea.

During his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge he yo-yoed in and out of the team under successive managers from Claudio Ranieri to Carlo Ancelotti, failing to convince any of them he should be an automatic selection.

Cole started his Chelsea career as understudy to Juan Sebastian Veron, and ended it as a stand-in for Florent Malouda.

Along the way he filled his trophy cabinet with three Premier League titles, three FA Cup winner's medals and two for the Carling Cup, and his bank balance, but he was left frustrated because while his England mates John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were all key figures, he was peripheral, a useful man to have on the bench.

Ancelotti claimed at the weekend that Cole's departure was "economical", but there were also some serious footballing considerations behind the decision to let the 28-year-old walk away.

Cole wanted to play every game, and his frustration at not doing so was felt throughout the squad. His replacement Yossi Benayoun, signed for £5.5m from Liverpool a month ago, will not rock the boat if he is left out.

At Liverpool, Cole will find in Hodgson a manager who does not tend to chop and change the side from week to week, a manager who likes his teams to play a passing game, a manager who values English talent, a manager who is universally respected by the players under his charge.

Cole will also find a club where creative players are idolised by their passionate fans, a bit like West Ham with knobs on.

This is what Cole craves. As former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp said yesterday: "He needs to go somewhere, be loved, and play football and get back to being the Joe Cole we all know and love."

Cole's early career was similar to that of Wayne Rooney. There was a lot of talk about them before they broke into their respective first teams at West Ham and Everton, when Cole was 17 and Rooney 16. They stayed put for a couple of years before moving on to bigger things, and that's where their stories diverge.

Rooney blossomed at Manchester United into the finest English player of his generation, while Cole struggled even to find his best position at Chelsea.

Loved by the fans but not by the managers, in his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge he took on a variety of jobs, but sadly his most regular position was on the bench.

Last season, Ancelotti tried him in several different positions, from playing 'in the hole' behind the strikers to a place out wide on the right, but Cole never looked convincing, despite moments of inspiration such as a back-heeled goal in Chelsea's decisive 2-1 victory at Old Trafford last season.

That will be the biggest change for the midfielder at Liverpool, that he will have a settled role in a settled team.

The most important thing for Cole is that he gets to play. The fact that it will be in the famous No 7 shirt, as worn by legends such as Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish, is a bonus.

Who wouldn't be swayed by such a prospect? It's almost as good as the No 10 shirt with Brazil.

And there is little doubt they will love him on the Kop. No manager has ever criticised Cole's work rate and commitment, characteristics that have earned him the adoration of the supporters at both Upton Park and Stamford Bridge.

If he can also win the love of his manager, then Cole will be in his element. As Liverpool's most famous sons once sang: "All you need is love."

The drawback for Cole is that by moving north to Liverpool he is undoubtedly taking a step down, from the champions to the team that finished seventh.

Chelsea are aiming to win the Champions League this season; Liverpool are hoping to qualify for it next season. (© Independent News Service)

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