A somewhat surprise inclusion in the line-up for Saturday’s trip to Burnley, Aston Villa playmaker Joe Cole proceeded to show fans that his ageing legs still have something to offer the top-flight.
Handed his first Premier League start for the club in a number 10 role, the former Chelsea man would go on to open the scoring in the 38th-minute at Turf Moor, when he latched on to Andreas Weimann's low ball in from the right-hand side and shot low underneath goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
Involved in the majority of Villa’s attacking endeavours during the opening 45 minutes, the 34-year-old noticeably tired as the match wore on, however, before being replaced by Jack Grealish in the 67th-minute, as a late Danny Ings penalty rescued a point for the home side and left the Midlands outfit winless in nine matches.
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Nevertheless, Paul Lambert’s outfit look much-improved with him in the side, as the ex-England international spoke after the match about marking his first league start since last December with a goal.
“I thought the start was terrific,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s just nice to be involved. I enjoy my football but the main thing is trying to put points on the board.
“We’d have liked to have won the game and I thought we deserved it.
“For 60 or 70 minutes I thought we controlled things, but in the end Burnley came into it and things got a bit hectic, so I think we’d probably take a draw.
“We’ve steadied the ship now with three draws in the last three games, and you can never expect a point in the Premier League,” he continued.
“Outside the top-six, everyone’s jostling for positions down to the wire, so the next step for us is to turn those draws into wins.
“I’m fit and ready to go. There are loads of games in December so I’m sure the whole squad will get used.”
Arriving on a free transfer in June, Cole 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 prior to the match at Turf Moor.
He had previously made just two brief league appearances for a total of 31 minute before Saturday, but his display will no doubt ensure that he’s given more opportunities moving forward.
While it’s clear that he no longer has that burst and pace which made him such a dynamic force during his prime, his football brain remains intact and offers a noticeable upgrade from Charles N’Zogbia.
Few expected much from Cole at the time of his signing but, considering Villa’s attacking struggles so far this season, he could well be set to play a significant role over the coming months, provided he can stay injury free.