Joe Cole's Unlikely Return to a Starring Role

Michael Regan

Coming off arguably his best performance for Liverpool, Joe Cole and his manager reflected on an unlikely starring turn for a player who many had long ago written off.

Before Thursday, if you had asked Liverpool fans what Joe Cole's defining moment with the club had been, the overwhelming response would likely have been to point to his debut against Arsenal under Roy Hodgson all the way back in 2010 when he got sent off for a clumsy tackle. That might still be the defining moment of Cole's Liverpool career for most, but either a well taken goal or a top class chip to set up Jonjo Shelvey against Young Boys might now at least be said to be in the conversation.

Certainly it's hard to think of a positive moment for Cole at the club that could measure up to either of that pair of high points, and while for many the long term prospect of Cole succeeding at Liverpool may still seem nigh on impossible, it was just nice to see a player who always manages to come across as a decent person end the match as one of the positives.

"Joe gave everything," said Brendan Rodgers, nearly a month after he publicly chastised Cole's lack of impact relative to the club's investment in him. "It was a terrific pass to set up Shelvey for the first goal we got, and then obviously he gets his finish in the second. He's still not 100 percent, but he was much better in the offensive part of his game. He was bright, he was clever in between people.

"That's the nature of the guys at the top end of the field. They've got to create and score goals. Jonjo and Joe did that."

Cole, too, was expectedly upbeat after the match, having turned in a performance that if not quite up to the levels of Cole in his early days at Chelsea at least showed flashes of the player he once was.

"It’s been a long time since I got one in front of the Kop," he said. "It was an enjoyable game to play in but we’re disappointed that we didn’t get the result to put us through.

"It was my third game back from injury and I’ve felt stronger in every game I’ve played. I just need to keep going and keep plugging away. I’ve been a good player at West Ham, Chelsea, Lille, and England when I’ve played. I’m sure if I play football here I’ll be a good player for Liverpool."

A few more performances like that in Europe and the cups along with a sprinkling of impact substitute appearances and that might actually be a discussion to be had. For now, though, as positive as his showing was against Young Boys on Thursday night was, hoping for one quality performance in two years on the club's books to answer for everything before it might be asking a little much.

Still, if you had told Liverpool fans before the match that they would be disappointed to see Cole come off in the second half as his hamstring began to tighten up, the vast majority would have been incredulous.

"I came off because my hamstring was a bit tight," Cole added. "That’s the longest I’ve played in that position and I got through a lot of running. But I’m okay and I’ll be available for Sunday."

We may still have to reserve judgement on whether that's a good thing or not. Though in the case of Cole, even being willing to reserve judgment might be considered a step in the right direction.

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