Hodgson: Time for Cole to start performing

Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, is not a man used to pointing out the brutally obvious, usually leaving it to the public's wider intelligence to see what is in front of their eyes.

However, he confounded that reputation yesterday by confirming what the entire Premier League already knew: Joe Cole has so far flattered to deceive during his Liverpool tenure.

When Cole signed a four-year contract in July, it was greeted with enthusiasm verging on ecstasy by most Liverpool fans who were convinced that his capture represented the first marquee signing of the new post-Rafael Benitez era.

But from the moment he was dismissed against Arsenal on his Premier League debut, Cole has failed to impress; a situation not helped by a hamstring problem that has hindered his recent game time and mobility.

Hodgson is as supportive as it gets of players who are down on their luck and spoke yesterday about his willingness to put an arm around a player if he feels he needs it. However, when it comes to Cole, it would seem that Hodgson is taking a firmer stance, insisting that although he still retains faith in the England international it is rapidly becoming time that that faith was repaid with performances on a level so far unseen on Merseyside.

"Joe has to come to terms with the fact that he has come here after an unsuccessful period at Chelsea with high hopes of taking Liverpool by storm and unfortunately it's not happened," Hodgson said. "He should be convincing me and everyone watching that this is a player who can help Liverpool win things and I think you couldn't say that has been the case so far.

"All Joe needs is a couple of good games or maybe a goal and that could turn things around for him.

"But our competition for places is getting stronger, so the only thing I can say to him that 'we're happy to have you here Joe, but I can't offer you anything more than a chance and you have to take it when it comes along'."

Meanwhile, Hodgson maintained that talk of a Benitez comeback at Anfield is not concerning him. Hodgson replaced Benitez in the summer before the Spaniard took over at Internazionale but that has all gone badly wrong after Benitez criticised the club president Massimo Moratti for having no money to spend on new players.

Benitez is now back at his Wirral home and that has triggered rumours that he could be reinstalled at Anfield. "It would be surprising," Hodgson said. "If he were the right man for the job then it would have been wiser not to let him go for six months and then have to bring him back."

Unsurprisingly, Benitez has no ally in Jose Mourinho. There is no love lost between the former Inter coach, now at Real Madrid and the man who replaced him. Mourinho offered a withering summary of the situation in Italy yesterday: "Ask all the Inter fans what they think of me and him."

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