Mourinho regime transforms Cole

Jose Mourinho has revealed how remarkably close he was to discarding Joe Cole. "Two months ago I told Joe Cole that it was impossible for him to play in my team as a midfield player," the Chelsea manager said.

Jose Mourinho has revealed how remarkably close he was to discarding Joe Cole. "Two months ago I told Joe Cole that it was impossible for him to play in my team as a midfield player," the Chelsea manager said.

Cole's only, forlorn, hope appeared to be pushing further forward and trying to dislodge either Damien Duff or Arjen Robben. And Mourinho had made it quite clear that he had no intention of dropping either player. After a promising start to his career under the Portuguese manager it looked like Mourinho had grown exasperated with him and that Cole's time was up at Stamford Bridge.

But a transformation, triggered by Mourinho's outburst against Cole in the home victory against Liverpool last October in which, ironically, the £6.6m player scored the winning goal, has occurred. Mourinho felt - as the England coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, felt before him - that Cole lacked discipline, was not a team player and needed to change.

"I keep saying to him 'you do not have to show your talent because everyone knows that'," Mourinho said. "I need you to show me that you can think through the tactical points of view." He was speaking in the wake of Chelsea's unconvincing FA Cup third round victory against Scunthorpe United in which Cole was the only one of his players to shine.

The 23-year-old had surprisingly regained a starting place earlier in the week, in the Premiership against Middlesbrough - his first League start for three months. "He was fantastic," said Mourinho. The manager said he had then sat down with the player for two days at Chelsea's training ground and went through the statistics for the game. "At the moment he can think his way through the game not as an individual but as one of the 11 players," Mourinho said.

"For me he is a completely different player." He also praised Cole's attitude - even if he has clearly been hurt by the public criticisms. "He is a good boy," Mourinho said. "Instead of being sad and speaking to you [the media] when he is sad he wants to improve."

Eriksson was at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to watch Cole - and the defender Glen Johnson. Cole himself admits that he has been through a tough few months. "The season has really opened my eyes to learning," he says of the harsh lessons from Mourinho. He has also, in the past, worked with Dave Aldred, the specialist kicking coach used by the England rugby team.

"I work hard every day at training concentrating on hitting the ball smoothly," Cole says. Indeed three of the four goals he has scored have been winners - including the two 1-0 victories over Liverpool. His next chance will come tomorrow in the League Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

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