'We're fortunate to have him' - Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert on Joe Cole

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hoping for 'great' things from Joe Cole after handing him a first Premier League start for the club.

It is not all that long ago that Joe Cole was a leading figure for club and country, challenging for major honours at Chelsea and helping England to the 2010 World Cup finals.

His career path has become rather bumpy since then, with a stint at Liverpool and an emotional return to where it all began at West Ham United failing to get him back on track.

In fact, it could be argued that Cole found himself wandering in completely the wrong direction as a second spell at Upton Park came to a close.

Once an all-action playmaker with a keen eye for goal, the 33-year-old was in serious danger of losing his way and allowing a career which had promised much, and delivered plenty early on, fizzling out to nothing.

He was to be offered a clean slate at Aston Villa, though, with Paul Lambert prepared to take a calculated risk on a player whose ability has never been in question.

It has taken a while to get Cole up to speed, with niggling knocks frustrating all concerned, but he found himself back in a Premier League starting XI at Burnley on Saturday.

He responded with his first goal in 11 months during a 1-1 stalemate at Turf Moor, with a performance which saw him roll back the years drawing lavish praise from his manager and offering the promise of more to come as he starts to find his feet again after a spell in the footballing wilderness.

Lambert said in the Birmingham Mail: “I told him I wished he was five years younger! He was outstanding for us.

“He’s got great enthusiasm for the game and is an absolute top guy. He’s won everything in the game but he still wants to succeed.

“We’ve been fortunate to get him here – okay that was his first start because he’s been injured – but if Joe can keep fit and carry on doing what he’s doing, even if it’s for an hour or 70 minutes or so he will be great for us.”

Lambert knows he must handle Cole with care, with there little point in demanding 90-minute performances from a man with 56 caps for his country.

He has become more of an impact player, be that from the start or entering the action as a substitute capable of turning the tide when things are not going Villa’s way.

His showing against Burnley suggests that he has lost none of the old magic; he just needed someone new to coax it out of him.

If Villa can do that on a regular basis, they will have some player on their hands and one who is more than capable of steering them clear of trouble and ending any lingering relegation fears.

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