Tim Sherwood keen to get Joe Cole involved during Aston Villa's survival bid

Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Manchester United saw the veteran midfielder make his latest injury comeback after a seven-week absence.

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has told AVTV of his eagerness to get the fit-again Joe Cole involved during the Premier League run in.

Cole, 33, has seen injuries limit him to just five starts in 11 total appearances since arriving on a free transfer in June, while ongoing hamstring problems had kept him out of action for seven weeks until the weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.

The former England midfielder made his return as a 76th-minute substitute at Old Trafford, however, and Sherwood is now keen to use his experience to the squad’s benefit over the remaining seven league games.

Having suffered relegation with West Ham United in 2003, the ex-Chelsea star knows what a battle to avoid the drop entails – albeit an unsuccessful one – and the Villa boss believes both his skills on the pitch and presence in the dressing room will prove crucial during the final stretch of the season.

“Joe is an experienced player. He has seen it and done it before,” said Sherwood. “He’s also experienced relegation before at West Ham.

“Everyone’s got their qualities and we need as many bodies as possible to choose from.

“He’s obviously a very experienced player and a calming influence [in this situation]. The pressure is very high and I don’t want to take the pressure off the boys – I don’t think it’s right.

“They have to realised they’re in a pressurised environment and they have to get results, and if they don’t then we’re in the Championship.”

Villa go into tonight’s home game against fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers just three points above the drop zone in 16th place and their top-flight status still very much in the balance.

A third consecutive defeat would see QPR leapfrog them in the table and throw things back into crisis mode following the previous mini revival under Sherwood, who wants the Villa Park crowd to recreate the atmosphere which inspired the team to last month’s back-to-back wins over Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion.

“Tuesday night under the lights of Villa Park, where we could go six points clear of Queens Park Rangers – it’s a great opportunity,” he added.

“Our home games are going to be crucial and we need the fans to be with us. They pulled us through against West Brom and we expect them to do the same [against QPR].

“We will give them a performance they can be proud of.”

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