Cole eager for first senior role

Glenn Moore, Football Correspondent, on the Newcastle connection that could influence Terry Venables' selection
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The Independent Online
Before England pull on their newly designed shirts at Wembley tomorrow they should, perhaps, add a couple of broad, black stripes down the front.

That would recognise the influence Newcastle United have had in shaping the expected side to meet Uruguay. Barry Venison is in line to replace Paul Ince, Peter Beardsley should resume his linking role, and Andy Cole, lately of the St James' Park parish, could make his debut in attack. Steve Howey and Robert Lee are also in contention.

Cole is the player attracting the attention. Though he is now at Manchester United it is the understanding he forged with Beardsley at Newcastle that could catapult him from outside the squad to into the team within a week.

"Goal King Cole'' clearly believes he will play. When he held court in one of Bisham Abbey's appropriately regal wood-panelled reception rooms yesterday he spoke of looking forward to the match with none of the customary "if selected'' provisos.

It is an honour he said he has anticipated since he was "about 10 or 12" and even his rejection, by Arsenal, at 19, never shook his belief.

"I did not see that as a set-back," he said. "There were a lot of good players at Arsenal. If you have belief in yourself you believe you can go somewhere else and get back into the highest division. That is what I have done.''

Cole has needed that inner confidence recently. The £7m transfer to Manchester United created a tremendous amount of comment, not all of it complimentary. Yesterday, as he faced more than a dozen journalists, there was a wary look in his eyes and a arms-folded, lean-back defensiveness about his posture.

But, he insisted, "I enjoy people talking about me. I enjoy reading about myself even though some of the criticism sometimes upsets my family.

"It just makes my shoulders broader if people knock me. In the week I went to Manchester United every paper I picked up said `Andy Cole is not worth two bob, never mind seven million'. But Andy Cole did not set the fee, Alex Ferguson and Kevin Keegan did. People seem to forget that. I have got five years there, I don't have to justify anything in five months.

"I am 23. People forget I am only in my second season in the Premier League. I have come a long way in two years, I still have a lot to learn. The team I am playing with now can make me a better player.

"People say I only score goals but I have been getting involved in all- round team play. I always knew I could do it, now I am starting to prove it. The manager wants me involved in all-round play, at Newcastle Kevin Keegan just wanted me to score goals.

"But I know I will still be judged as a goalscorer. I will miss chances, I am entitled to, but scoring goals is what I do best. I want to keep scoring goals and keep playing well. I want to be the best in the country.''

Beardsley believes Cole is the likely long-term partner for Alan Shearer in the England team. Venison is another who thinks he will do well, although he is surprised at the speed of Cole's progress.

"Eighteen months ago I thought he woud take a lot more time. I have seen in the last few days how much he has matured in his football and as a person. He is not as shy and introverted as he was, not so withdrawn.

"He can stand up for himself, no way will he be intimidated. He has pace and electric feet. He is a natural-born goalscorer. He can fool and trick people and I think he can do it on the international stage.

Venison then added, with a grin: "I think he plays better with his mates around him - and you can tell Terry that.''

Venables was smiling himself after welcoming back all his injured and sick players. Only Nick Barmby, who was suffering from a toe injury, missed training.

Venables will today announce his team and the most difficult choice is between Cole and Teddy Sheringham, who is in excellent form, in attack. He could even play them together but that would make it difficult to include Beardsley.

Warren Barton will be waiting to hear the team more anxiously than most. His international debut against the Republic of Ireland has been struck from the record following its abandonment.