Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has revealed that he is considering introducing summer signing Joe Cole into the line-up after noticing an improvement in both form and fitness.
Arriving on a free transfer in June, the former England international picked up a thigh strain in pre-season which has so far limited his involvement, with a 60-minute outing in the Capital One Cup his one significant taste of action in a Villa shirt.
He was rewarded with his first Premier League minutes of the season in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Everton after stepping up in recent weeks, however, and Lambert now believes that the midfielder is set to make a serious impact in the first-team moving forward.
‘He’s still got a bit to go but he’s certainly getting there,’ he told the Birmingham Mail.
‘If we keep Joe fit and up to speed then hopefully it will benefit him and us.
‘I think it was justified to put him on the bench against Everton because he’s been working really hard.'
Aged 32, Cole’s career has been in a noticeable decline since leaving Chelsea for Liverpool in the summer of 2010, having looked like a shadow of his former self during his last 18-month spell at West Ham United.
Nevertheless, Lambert insists that he still sees some of the qualities which made him one of the brightest stars of the English game in the past, and is looking forward to putting them to good use in the coming weeks.
‘‘We just need to keep him fit and up to match speed in the best way that we can,' he said.
'I think he will definitely contribute, that’s for sure.'