Football: Cole ready to make fresh start

International football: Manchester United striker in no mood for contrition before England's meeting with France
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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE may have forgiven Andy Cole in the dying days of his England reign but the Manchester United striker was in no mood to return the gesture as he rejoined the international fold yesterday.

In November Cole had responded to Hoddle's repeated assertion that he wasted too many chances by choosing the front page of The Sun to label the former national coach "a coward" for not picking him.

Yesterday he professed neither joy nor sadness at Hoddle's sudden departure but he did say that, in a similar position, he would react the same way again. Cole said: "I've no regrets. I stick by what I said. I was disappointed. I felt it was getting personal.

"I'm not bitter towards Glenn Hoddle. That was his opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would speak out again. People think it is wrong if a player does that but it is freedom of speech.

"I don't say a lot and when I do it is because something hurts me. I don't usually follow the papers but I was going to my nephew's birthday party and the missus [his girlfriend, Shirley] said, `Can you get a newspaper.' I turned to the back page and there it was.

"When things like that happen the people you take it out on are your family and I had a barney with the missus for a couple of days. When I decided to [do the article] she said `go ahead and do it'.

"Alex Ferguson did not know about it and he did not say anything afterwards. He looks upon me as a 27-year-old man with a family [he has a three-year- old son, Devante] who can look after himself. Everyone was surprised because it was a bit of an outburst from me. People know I don't speak a lot; my football does the talking for me. I've been described as being moody, sullen and dull but I am just a quiet chap."

Cole, 27, later said he was not too good with "the PR stuff" but, whether calculated or not, yesterday's interview was an impressive piece of rebranding. He was loquacious yet thoughtful, prepared to indulge in both banter and mild soul-searching.

The striker admitted he was surprised to be recalled but said Ferguson and his United team-mates had told him not to give up hope. As for Hoddle's criticism, he said: "I do get a lot of chances and I'm not going to take them all. If I did I would be getting 40 goals a season and that can't be done. I score my fair share and I miss my fair share.

"If I get two chances at international level and put one away I'll be delighted. But I might get more chances. I'm the kind of player who makes chances for himself."

Cole does not expect to start against France tomorrow night but it would be a surprise if he was not involved in some way. Howard Wilkinson, the caretaker coach who saw Cole score twice at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, intimated that, given the recent exchanges between Cole and Hoddle, it would be helpful if he were.

Wilkinson added: "He and Dwight Yorke have developed a terrific relationship, their movement, their understanding of each other, link-up play, touch and perception are excellent. Andy combines better with other people now. There was a time when he was seen as just a finisher. Now he gets involved in making things for himself and others and helping the build-up of the team."

Cole has made two previous appearances for England, both as a late substitute. He had 19 minutes against Uruguay at Wembley under Terry Venables in March 1995, and 14 minutes against Italy in Le Tournoi under Hoddle in June 1997. He hit the bar when he should have scored against Uruguay, pulled out of the next squad through injury and was never summoned by Venables again. Hoddle was prepared to give him a second chance, against Chile a year ago this Thursday, but he withdrew again, with a thigh injury, on the morning of the game. He figured in the next two squads without playing and was dropped in May.

Since his last international he has scored 43 goals for Manchester United at roughly two every three games. "A lot of it is to do with the team playing so well," Cole said. "I've struck up a very good understanding with Dwight. I spoke to him when he was thinking of coming to United and I was the first person to tell him to come.

"I never thought he would be a threat to me. Every season I am supposed to be leaving and I am still there. I scored 26 goals last season and I was still supposed to be leaving.

"We get on really well, on and off the pitch. We haven't worked on it a lot. When he first came I wasn't in the team. But in training the boys say we never pass to anyone else."

Cole's ambition for the match is to enjoy himself. Long-term it is to keep on learning. He, too, feels he is a much better player than in his Newcastle days and is glad his all-round game is now being recognised.

"I have nothing to prove to anybody but myself," he concluded. "You always have to prove some things to yourself and I want to prove I can do it at international level."