Liverpool band together to lift struggling Cole
Liverpool's players and staff have had to band together to boost Joe Cole's fragile confidence after the plague of problems which has marred the opening months of the midfielder's Anfield career, the club's manager Roy Hodgson has revealed.
The England international arrived on Merseyside amid great fanfare in July -- described by Jamie Carragher as a minor deity and heralded as the showpiece signing required to return Liverpool to greatness -- but has endured disappointment and difficulty since his free transfer from Chelsea.
He missed a penalty in just his second game at Anfield, his Premier League debut was cut short by a straight red card, resulting in a three-game suspension, and he has missed the last month with a hamstring injury sustained in the 1-0 win against Bolton in October.
And, even when he has played, Cole has admitted that he has produced the worst spell of form he has ever experienced.
Hodgson maintains that the 29-year-old, who will return to a weakened Liverpool side for tonight's Europa League tie with Steaua Bucharest, remains a "bubbly" figure, but acknowledges he has had to be handled with kid-gloves to ensure his desperation to succeed does not become counter-productive.
"Joe is not a naturally confident character," said Hodgson. "He suffers when things are not going his way.
"Everyone at the club has worked hard to make sure he does not take it too hard and take too much on himself. He is quite happy to take responsibility, but sometimes players like that can take too much on themselves and push themselves even further down.
"Everyone at the club, but in particular the senior players and his England colleagues here, have done a great job. The coaching staff have tried to encourage him, telling him it will come right. Hopefully that will start (tonight). But he has a long time with us, a long contract and we know what he is capable of doing.
"The sooner he produces it the better for me," Hodgson continued, "but there is no pressure on him in that respect."
Cole's chances of beginning his journey on the road to redemption with a victory tonight are diminished by Hodgson's decision to travel to Romania without a host of senior internationals -- injury victims Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger and the omitted Raul Meireles, Dirk Kuyt, Glen Johnson and Fernando Torres.
However, the manager is confident his side still boast the leadership credentials required to secure the point that as good as guarantees qualification to the knockout stages. (© Daily Telegraph, London)