Cole the supersub set to remain more England's also-ran than talisman
After two more goals and a telling-off, England's match-winner may struggle for a starting place. Jason Burt reports
Three goals in two games for Joe Cole – salvaging a draw against the Czech Republic and gaining victory over Andorra – and yet a familiar complaint from his manager. When Fabio Capello chose to berate Cole and Wayne Rooney for failing to follow his tactical instructions there were echoes of a famous clash with Jose Mourinho more than three years ago.
In January 2005, the then Chelsea manager accused Cole of having "two faces" – one his vision and technical ability and the other his lack of discipline. "After Cole scored the game ended for him," Mourinho said after the midfielder had struck the only goal in a crucial 1-0 victory over Liverpool. "We were playing with 10 men afterwards. Cole stopped running, stopped playing."
Capello's complaint was that he ran too much. Mourinho had drummed into Cole the need to track back and play to the system he favoured. Capello was left telling off the 26-year-old for not holding an advanced position. "I was not happy with Joe and Wayne Rooney," Capello said. "I was asking them to go forward again because Emile Heskey was all on his own." The message was all too clear and it again captured the conundrum of Joe Cole. For all his achievements and ability there remains a fundamental distrust from coaches to have complete faith in him.
It appears somewhat perverse but ever since he has been at Chelsea, for example, he has started every season with a question mark over him. Even this campaign, had Robinho been signed, the suspicion was that Cole would have been the one to eventually be left out.
For England, having appeared to have earned himself that role on the left of midfield, he has discovered, due to variations in formation and that little lack of pace that he has, that it's the position most up for grabs, with Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing chosen ahead of him.
It means that those three England goals, the last three scored by the national side, have all come from Cole appearing as a substitute.
He has surely made a stronger case for a start against Croatia and yet the suspicion lingers that he could, once more, miss out. "I have got to think about Joe," Capello said, but many supporters will be pondering: what is there to think about?
"I think Joe is staking his claim," said his Chelsea and England team-mate Frank Lampard. "No player likes to not be in the starting line-up and Joe isn't any different. No one trains harder or gives his all as much as Joe. He wants to be in the team.
"The decision is always down to the manager but he has to have given him something to think about coming on and doing that.
"When you aren't in the team whether it's because you are out of favour or it's a tactical thing, all you can do is do your stuff when you are called on and Joe has done that again.
"We're a group – we're a squad – and we're all together trying to qualify. But Joe's come on and made a big difference."