Joe Cole is hoping tonight's Europa League game against Sparta Prague at Anfield can be the moment he finally gets his Liverpool career on track.
The midfielder has been a peripheral figure at the club since becoming Roy Hodgson's first signing when he joined on a free transfer last July, with injuries, poor form and the change of manager at Anfield hampering his progress.
It is not how he, nor many observers, foresaw this season panning out for the England midfielder. When he left Chelsea he could have taken his pick from a number of offers from top clubs including Arsenal and Tottenham.
But he chose Liverpool and, having been sent off on his Premier League debut against Arsenal last August, the 29-year-old has started just 15 games, scoring only two goals.
"It's not gone how I would have liked, but that's life," he said yesterday. "Things like that happen and you've just got to push on through the difficult times. I've had plenty of good times in my career and I've had my share of difficult times, I'll always come through. I've enjoyed moving up here and living where I am. I haven't enjoyed the football because I haven't felt as though I have done myself justice or got myself right."
His 53-minute substitute's appearance in Prague last Thursday in the first leg of Liverpool's last-32 Europa League tie represented Cole's first action under Kenny Dalglish, who replaced Hodgson as manager in January. The midfielder now hopes to have fully recovered from a knee problem and to push for a regular starting place.
"I have been frustrated with the injuries, but that's all going to change," he said. "I'm fired up, still positive and still got enough energy – I want to be a success at Liverpool."
His long-term future at Anfield, however, must surely be in doubt as he has hardly made himself indispensable to Dalglish, with the prospect of a summer clear-out looming. But the manager said yesterday that Cole had time to prove himself. "He knows himself it will take time to adjust after being out for a while injured," Dalglish said. "It's not fair for us to judge him right now. He is enthusiastic and talented and we will try our best to get that out of him."
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