Righto, it's time to take a quick break from all that Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League stuff and take another look at the very highest level that football has to offer. Yes, it's international weekend, it's World Cup Qualifiers, it's....ENGLAND v NORTHERN IRELAND!!!! WOOOOOO HOOOO!!! No...wait...come back...this is more exciting than it sounds, I promise.
Granted this isn't one of those fixtures that stirs the blood and quickens the pulse. We expect England to beat a hard-working but limited Northern Ireland side and that is what will happen, which sounds a little predictable n'est ce pas? However this fixture is intriguing for one reason - the saviour of English football has arrived to claim his rightful place on the throne. Arise Sir Joseph of Cole...your time has come .
In 1996 (could have been '97..who knows? fugget about it), Sir Alex Ferguson brought his United team for a league fixture at Upton Park. The story goes that before the game, Fergie bumped into Harry Redknapp in the tunnel, and his very first words were : "How's Cole?". Alex knew that West Ham had a young master on their hands and a couple of years later, the rest of the nation found out as well. My first view of young Joe was on a damp East End afternoon in an FA Youth Cup semi-final against Everton. I was smitten. As he glided across the turf, he appeared to be in total control of the game around him, shaping it as he pleased. Here, I thought at the time, is the future of the England football team. Since his debut in '99, Joe's career has yet to match all the early hype that surrounded him, seeming to remain in the land of promise, rather than graduating to domination and superstar status. But my belief has never faltered, the reasoning being that he just needed a manager who was prepared to show him some true faith, to build a side around his talent.
It looks like he's finally found his man. Jose knows Joe and Joe is prepared to listen to Jose. Mourinho's tough love is having the right effect on the young protege, who, given an extended run in the Chelsea side, is proving that he is so much more than a show pony. Cole announced his renaissance with a goal against Norwich which demonstrated newly-found qualities of strength and assurance. He followed that with his performance in the game against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, which was sheer class.
So to Saturday , where he will be playing in an England side resplendent in their new kit (Stevie Gerrard just doesn't cut it as a model does he? You can tell he's craving to get back into his trackies) and containing four other Londoners : Paul Robinson, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard. Joe will find himself playing in England's problem position of left-midfield (although Svennis might revert to a 4-3-3 again, which would give him a little more freedom to create) and there is every chance that he'll deliver a non-descript performance that will guide him back to the subs bench. But I'm backing him to shine. His time is now.
His homepage is a bit naff though, innit?