Tim Sherwood explains why Joe Cole is still crucial to Aston Villa

The Villa boss insists the former England midfielder is not "broken" has still has a role to fill at the club, both on and off the pitch.

Joe Cole still has a valuable role to fill at Aston Villa, manager Tim Sherwood has told the Birmingham Mail.

Arriving on a free transfer in June, Cole has seen injuries limit him to just 10 appearances for a total of 377 minutes this season, while a nagging hamstring problem has kept him out of action for the past four weeks.

Now aged 33, Sherwood admits that he will have to treat the midfielder with care during the final stretch of the campaign, but insists that he can still be a difference-maker in their battle to avoid the drop.

The former England international is expected to return to contention towards the end of the month but, even if his impact on the pitch is limited to begin with, the new boss still sees his influence on the training ground as being crucial to the makeup of the squad.

“He’s good around the place. He’s been at every game, certainly the home game,” Sherwood said. “He’s been in the dressing room before the game, talking to the players.

“We’ve got a relatively young squad so he’s valuable to me.”

Cole is far from the Premier League star who helped Chelsea to three Premier League titles at this point, but Sherwood outright refutes suggestions that he is “broken” and, with a contract until 2016, expects to have him around Villa Park for a while longer.

“He’s got great experience. You’ll hear me say this a lot but I like players on the pitch that actually affect the game and I think Joe when he’s on the pitch affects it,” he added.

“He’s getting no younger and it happened to all of us, but I still think he’s got a part to play.

“He’s not broken by any means. You just have to make sure you nurture them to get the right balance between training and playing.”

Nevertheless, with Sherwood now having Carles Gil, Scott Sinclair and a revived Charles N’Zogbia at his disposal, fans shouldn’t bank on seeing Cole much over the coming months.

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