Cole ready for return as 'nightmare' is over

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The Independent Online

The Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole insists he is ready for a first-team return after playing in a friendly against Coventry's second-string side at the London club's Cobham training complex.

The game, played behind closed doors, afforded Cole the first chance to test his damaged knee in competitive action since his previous comeback attempt against Werder Bremen in the Champions' League a month ago.

Cole suffered a medial knee ligament injury within seven minutes of his first pre-season outing in the United States in early August. The injury ruled him out for the first two months of the Premiership campaign. The England international played the final 10 minutes against Bremen but admitted to having further problems with his knee.

But Cole demonstrated he is on the way back to his best by creating both goals in Chelsea's 2-1 victory and lasting the full 90 minutes against the Sky Blues' reserve team.

The former West Ham United player now believes he is ready for selection by the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who watched the game along with his assistant, Steve Clarke.

Cole said: "It was great to put the shirt back on. I really enjoyed it and there is nothing better than playing. Although I have had three or four good training sessions, you are still a little bit nervous because you can't replicate a game. But I went out there and the knee felt fine so I am back and ready for selection.

"I am buzzing. I am still not 100 per cent, of course, because that was my first 90 minutes. But this injury has made me even more hungry. It has been a nightmare being out and it has made me realise all the more how I love playing and I just want to get back out there and help the lads."

Mourinho is unlikely to risk him in the match with Reading on Saturday but Clarke admitted Cole's performance was a big step for the midfielder. "Joe got to about 90 per cent fit very quickly but we just couldn't quite get him over that final hurdle," Clarke said. "It has been a long slog for him, almost fit but not quite, and today was an important step for the boy. Hopefully there will be no reaction and he can push on from here."

Cole provided a free-kick for Jack Cork's headed equaliser after Coventry had taken the lead shortly after the break. He then sent over a corner which Cork - son of the former Wimbledon striker Alan - converted for the second. Cork senior is now coach of the Coventry reserve side that provided the opposition for Chelsea.

The goalkeepers Carlo Cudicini, Hilario and Yves Ma Kalambay all played half an hour each while there was also a full game in midfield for Mikel John Obi.

Across London, meanwhile, Tottenham's Egyptian striker Mido has revealed how he helped his compatriot Hossam Ghaly to remain positive as he waited for the chance to break into Martin Jol's plans. Ghaly's Spurs career has been blighted by injury since he joined from Feyenoord in January, but the midfielder is finally beginning to show his quality after a spate of injuries decimated Jol's squad.

The 24-year-old was introduced into the action in the 1-0 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford and returned to make his home debut in the win against Portsmouth.

"When he wasn't playing I always spoke to him and said he had to be patient and wait for the chance to show his quality - because he has it," Mido said. "The problems only come if you don't have the quality. If you have it you will get your chance.

"If you look at a player like Danny Murphy, for example, he didn't play a lot last season but he is playing now because he has the quality and has done very well in the last four games. I am not saying this because he is my friend, but Ghaly can play anywhere on the pitch except goalkeeper. In the national team he has played in central defence, at right-back, centre midfield, out wide, or as a striker. He is strong physically and very good with the ball. He still has to develop some areas of his game - he knows that - and it is not a problem."

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