Football: Cole transformed by goals and back in frame for World Cup finals

From scoring goals for fun at Newcastle, Andy Cole became a figure of fun when the goals dried up at Manchester United and the misses increased. But now, as Guy Hodgson saw at Old Trafford yesterday, he is pressing for a place in the England squad.

They used to be almost shame-faced when they shouted "Get your goal King Cole shirts" on Sir Matt Busby Way. Then they did not bother, it provoked too much scorn.

Even yesterday a man in a city centre pub was expressing reservations. "I want to see a him sneak a goal in a really big game," he said loudly "Only then will I be convinced." No Manchester United player has created so much doubt, so many reservations, as Andy Cole.

Every striker lives and dies by his confidence but no one wears it on his sleeve like Cole. Glenn Hoddle noted the other week that it was nice to see a smile on the striker's face again but ever since he moved from Newcastle United in January 1994 problems seemed to be ganging up on him. The worst of them were internal.

Is he good enough? The supporters were wondering, but so was Cole and frequently the inner voice told him "no". David Mellor repeatedly recalls that it was him who missed the chances against West Ham when United failed to win the championship in spring 1995, but no one needed to be reminded of it less than Cole.

His confidence was an error away from being shredded. He could not be substituted because his self-esteem would plummet further. The crowd stayed supportive, but when he missed and missed again against Feyenoord at Old Trafford only five weeks ago and his days at Old Trafford appeared not so much numbered as gone.

Indeed, had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not got injured Cole might have been sold. The Norwegian dropped out, however, and since then Cole has been a man transformed. "The only way he can answer his critics is on the pitch," Gary Pallister said and Cole has over and over again. Eleven times in nine matches.

It is Solskjaer who is on the outside of the team looking in now. His appearance in the starting line-up yesterday was due to Paul Scholes' suspension, his two goals no guarantee that he will force Cole out. The last time a striker had to make way for the Norwegian was Sheringham who stepped down. Cole's pace is the ingredient Alex Ferguson seems unwilling to do without. "Andy's going to be and is a very important player for Manchester United," the manager repeats on every inquiry.

Cole makes mistakes. All players do but they no longer linger with him like a bad smell. The player whose personality had a resilience by-pass now exudes confidence.

It was apparent from his first touch yesterday. The ball came at him at the sort of speed that would have had him tripping over his feet even two months ago yet he flicked it with the back of the heel into Ryan Giggs' path.

The last significant move of the match saw Cole chest the ball down and then imperiously strike the ball from the edge of the area. The shot went wide and the striker buried his head in his hands. This time it was only a scratch on the surface of his ego, not a mortal wound.

In between Cole had twice had the ball in the net, only to be ruled offside each time, and it was his pace that forced Stephane Henchoz to stick out a foot in desperation and concede an own goal, United's third. No longer a liability, he is almost a talisman.

There were two England fringe strikers on the pitch yesterday and their stories were indicative. Cole oozed threat, Chris Sutton could not find an inch of space against Henning Berg and was sent off for two bookable offences.

Jimmy Armfield, the Football Association's technical director was even advocating Cole's place in the World Cup squad next summer. "England have plenty of good strikers," he said, "but no one has Cole's pace."

Sutton or Cole? It was a one-way bet at the start of the season but not now. They can sell their Andy Cole shirts without ridicule these days.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee