Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has backed new signing Joe Cole to impress at the club, insisting that the former England regular is still motivated for success.
Arriving on a free transfer last month, after his contract with West Ham United expired, Cole is said to have turned down lucrative offers from abroad to remain in the Premier League and Lambert believes it’s that drive which will serve him well ahead of the upcoming season.
‘He has been terrific not just as a footballer but as a lad too. I'm looking forward to seeing him playing, I really am,’ he said. ‘There is no doubting his ability. He missed a lot of football last year due to one thing or another but this is a new chapter for him and hopefully he can kick on.
‘As soon as you start to lose that fire in your stomach as a footballer then I think there is no point but he is still hungry to do really well. That is the sign of a real top player.
‘He can make things happen. If he can perform the way I know he can do then we are going to have a really good player on our hands.’
Signing a two-year deal with the club, the 32-year-old’s arrival however hasn’t been met with the same enthusiasm amongst fans, with many regarding Cole as well past his best, following two poor seasons with Liverpool and boyhood club West Ham, respectively, his reputation plummeting as a consequence.
Formerly regarded as one of the most gifted players of his generation upon breaking through to the Hammers first-team, aged just 17, the midfielder would go on to win three Premier League titles after signing for Chelsea in August 2003, but injuries have seen him go through a dramatic decline since leaving the club for Liverpool in 2010.
While a season-long loan with Ligue 1 side Lille in 2011-12 saw brief flashes of his old self return, Cole has simply been a shadow of the player who appeared 56 times for England between 2001 and 2010 since, and there are clear grounds to suggest that he has little to offer Villa.
However, with the club currently going through severe financial struggles, as want-away owner Randy Lerner struggles to find potential buyers, transfer funds remain at a premium.
As a result, Lambert has been forced to settle for low-cost, veteran options in an attempt to bolster his thin and underperforming squad, bringing in centre-back Philippe Senderos as his first summer signing, with Fulham’s Kieran Richardson and ex-Arsenal Striker Nicklas Bendtner also rumoured to be arriving.
Cole clearly fits that description, representing a largely low-risk investment for the rebuilding club, who appear set for a fourth consecutive relegation-threatened season, unless a new owner is found fast.
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be the type of buy to endorse but, given the club’s current financial situation, there are few other viable options out there who fit the bill of what the current squad requires.
Villa are a young outfit, short on quality in the skill department and in desperate need of some experience. Cole likely won’t be a regular in the side but, if he can provide those qualities, then, having arrived with few expectations, it’s hard to call the move a poor one.