Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has hit back at the "lazy" critics who claim he's just a work-shy star full of fancy tricks.
Cole's cheeky back-heel goal against Manchester United last Saturday set Chelsea up for a vital 2-1 victory over their Barclays Premier League title rivals.
It was a typical piece of impudence from the 28-year-old England international but such moments of individual flair have led to criticism of his overall game in recent years.
Cole's silky skills have grabbed all the attention throughout his career but those moments of class have given others the wrong impression of his commitment to a team ethic.
But Cole insists he works as hard as any winger in the game and the label of being a 'flair' player is simply unfair.
"I have steel, I've got some balls," said Cole. "People who market me as just a flair player are a bit lazy. Come and watch me for five or six games. I don't think there is a winger or an attacking midfielder who works as hard as me.
"I want to help my team. Sometimes I probably do it too much, maybe I should be a bit more clever, but now is not the time for that.
"Now is the time for everyone at Chelsea to do their jobs with no mistakes. If we don't make any more mistakes we could win a double."
The midfielder is still in the midst of contract negotiations with the club and many argue his future lies away from Stamford Bridge next season.
But Cole continues to insist he is happy at Chelsea and is reaping the benefits of long struggle to regain his fitness.
His battle began 15 months ago when he sustained a serious knee ligament injury against Southend in the FA Cup but since he returned to action last September, his progress has been hampered by a host of niggling setbacks.
He has also been criticised by club coach Carlo Ancelotti and England boss Fabio Capello but still harbours hopes of earning himself a place in England's World Cup final squad this summer. However, if he fails, Cole certainly knows how to bounce back.
"I've had the broadest spectrum of ups and downs a footballer can have," said Cole. "I've captained a side to relegation (West Ham in 2003), I've won titles (Chelsea 2005, and 2006), I've missed out on playing in a major tournament (unused squad player Euro 2004) and also started a World Cup, where I scored an amazing goal (Sweden 2006).
"I've had all the highs and lows, which is a rich thing because life is about experiences. I just keep coming back, coming back stronger."
Cole will be hoping for another chance to stake his international claim when Chelsea take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley tomorrow.
The Blues, who also boast a two-point lead over Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier, have the double in their sights.
Ancelotti targeted league and cup glory as soon as they were dumped out of the Champions League by Inter Milan and Cole wants to play his part in helping Chelsea become only the seventh team to achieve the feat.
He is still haunted by Chelsea's failure to win the double four years ago. The Blues were strolling to a second successive title under Jose Mourinho but he missed a late chance to level the scores and they lost 2-1 to Liverpool in the semi-final at Old Trafford.
"We would have played West Ham in the final that year, so you would have definitely fancied us to win the double," added Cole.
"I was very disappointed because that was one of my best seasons in a Chelsea shirt. I had a great chance, the ball dropped to me five yards out and I skied it into the stands. Two minutes later the whistle goes and I got on the coach feeling I had let people down.
"You remember those things as a footballer. I remember the misses, that was the worst I ever experienced.
"It would be really special if we won the double this season, only six teams have done so, but it's hard and we're a long way from doing it.
"Just because we won at Old Trafford we have to remember there is still work to do."
Chelsea demolished Aston Villa 7-1 in the league just over a fortnight ago but Cole believes they could provide one of the biggest obstacles to his double dream.
"It's not going to be that easy again," he added. "They're going to be hurt. I have been on the end of 7-1 defeats and it's not nice.
"Those players will want to make sure they don't end up getting another result like that. It won't be 7-1, that's for sure, it's going to be a close game."Reuse content