Everybody who comments, be it in print or on the radio or on television, makes mistakes. It doesn't matter who you are or how much you know or just what the subject is: Sooner or later you will slip up. And so I don't want to seem to be going after some poor talking head, some exceptionally easy target, just for the sake of it. Just because I can and it's fun and let's all point and laugh at a stupid error by a man who makes his living wearing a suit and telling football fans what to think.
Joe Cole is a clever, skilful player but he lost his way during his time at Liverpool. I think he needed a new environment, a change of scene, and perhaps just a little less pressure on him to perform.
That's not to say he can't handle pressure (he has 56 England caps, after all) but daily life at Liverpool is a bit different. It's a cliche, but the club is a religion for the Liverpool fans.
Joe Cole, it seems fair to say, lost his way some time before he arrived at Liverpool, the player long seen as surplus to requirements at Chelsea before being allowed to leave on a free. Liverpool was, at the time, to be that change of scenery; that new environment. Still, if the story is to be of Cole's redemption and Liverpool's missed opportunity, then the scene must be set.
As for what that scene is is being set up for, well, I don't suppose at this point Rafa Benitez needs another defence—that boat has sailed, and as with Lucas, anybody on the wrong side of the argument at this point deserves little more than a moment of pity before being ignored.
Cole's current French employers Lille have made it known that they want to sign him on a permanent basis but I think it's a bit premature to say there is no future for him under Dalglish at Liverpool.
In terms of formation there is no reason why Cole couldn't slot into the team. At Lille he's flourishing [in a] 4-1-2-3 line-up as part of the attacking three. If Liverpool were to play 4-5-1, Cole would be a natural fit to play off the striker, and in theory would benefit as the likes of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll grow into their roles at Liverpool.
Under Rafael Benitez Cole played often played in wide positions, which was a waste of his talent in unlocking defences. He needs to be playing off the striker, or at least in a role where he can pop up anywhere and has licence to improvise.
Of course, before Cole lost his way at Chelsea before he lost his way at Liverpool, his best years involved him playing in wide positions that at the time hardly seemed a waste of his talent. Not to mention that at Lille, much of that recent flourishing has occurred from wide positions that hardly seem a waste of his talent. And of course, if Cole was indeed flourishing as part of the three in a 4-1-2-3 without being wasted out wide, it would have to mean that after years of being England's Messi on the training pitch Cole was in fact being played—and flourishing—as Lille's false-nine Messi clone.
Plus there's the little problem that Cole came to Liverpool after Rafa Benitez was dismissed, purchased by Christian Purslow in an attempt to satiate an increasingly restless fanbase. And while Benitez may not need another defence, that his name would, eighteen months after he was fired, be trotted out in such a way by a man whose job is to go on television every weekend and tell football fans what to think, doesn't sit well.
For the moment, it's great to see Cole enjoying his football and making the most of his talent. He loves the game, and he's never seemed to complain when things haven't gone his way.
Perhaps he can still have a big impact on Liverpool's hunt for trophies in the coming seasons.
It is good to see Cole finally enjoying his football once again, certainly, though it's hard to imagine him ever helping Liverpool on to any kind of glory. That, though, isn't the problem.
The problem comes when you wrap everything up into a single package. When you throw in the pathetic need to find one more reason to have a shot at Liverpool's former manager 18 months after his dismissal. When you casually and authoritatively deal in mistruths and insinuations about Joe Cole's best positions, ignoring that his best years at Chelsea were spent out wide. When you imply that Cole is now flourishing as a false-nine striker in France. When you do all of this in your official capacity as co-commentator for football on ITV after years of covering Premier League, Champions League, and internationals for multiple networks—not to mention being co-commentator alongside Jon Champion in Pro Evolution Soccer. When, to make matters worse, you're a former Liverpool player.
When you put all of that together, it leaves the average fan with no choice but to think they cannot believe a single word that ever comes out of your or any other commentator's mouth. Though sadly, of course, the reality is that average fan will in fact never question a word that comes out of your or any other commentator's mouth, instead unthinkingly digesting your unquestioned gospel as a matter of course.
And so now we watch Luis Suarez being lined up as the villain of all things good and pure by the myriad talking heads, and meanwhile far more reprehensible personal figures get a free pass because of their nationality. We watch old lies and lines trotted out, vacant and easy combinations of sound filling the air without an ounce of conscious thought behind them. We watch the latest, supposedly informed, well paid personality doing their bit to sway popular opinion on whether Rafa's lost the plot or Lucas only passes backwards or Hodgson and going British is the only way forward or Suarez is a dirty cheat. We watch all of that and despair because for many casual fans, there is an assumption that former footballers paid large sums to share their wisdom with the masses have at least half a clue what they're talking about.
This isn't meant to lambaste a poorly chosen, ill-conceived, and casually false attack on Rafa Benitez dropped into an otherwise cringe-worthy but forgettable bit of puffery. This isn't a bit of fun. It's a touch of anger; a bit of despair; a growing disgust. But it isn't fun. Because on the weekend, it is Jim Beglin and men like him, opinionated and ill-informed and quite possibly holding a grudge as wide as the Irish Sea, who will go on television, go on radio, or sit down to pen articles, all telling their collective captive audience the latest pearls of wisdom. With news coming down that the FA has chosen to charge him for his gesture on Monday, chances are that this weekend that captive audience will hear a little more about the villainy of Luis Suarez.
Note: Shortly after publication, key sections of Beglin's article were whitewashed to cover up his most embarrassing mistake. A copy of the original can be found here.