Not even Mourinho knew how to use Joe Cole's genius, but I'm hoping Hodgson will

I thought it might take a while longer to summon any real enthusiasm about the approach of the new Premier League season.

England's struggles in South Africa have burdened our domestic competition with a so-what factor before it starts next month.

So what if Wayne Rooney scores a hat-trick against Wigan? He could barely muster a shot against Algeria.

So what if Robert Green plays like Gordon Banks against Fulham? He couldn't save a daisy-cutter from 25 yards when it mattered against the USA.

So what if Aaron Lennon tears the Blackpool defence to shreds? He crawled into his shell when England needed him in Cape Town.

But then, in the midst of the indifference, Joe Cole signed for Liverpool and suddenly everything seemed alive with possibility again.

Cole has had a good career but no one has ever seemed quite sure what to do with his genius.

Even when he was winning the title with Chelsea, there was a sense that his greatness was still trapped inside, desperate to get out.

Jose Mourinho does not trust ability like Cole's so he converted him into a hard-working left midfielder.

Cole duly became a very good hard-working left midfielder but his role in those Chelsea sides still amounted to a waste of his talent.

A waste of his vision, a waste of his touch, a waste of his creativity, a waste of his play-making potential. Cole's genius was hidden in plain sight.

But his move to Liverpool holds out the hope that, at 28, the great potential that he has always possessed will finally be fully realised.

Who knows, maybe it will even allow Fabio Capello to see Cole in a different light and use him as more than a bit-part player in the England team.

On second thoughts, given some of Capello's recent decisions, best not to hold our breath.

All Cole has ever really needed is a manager who values him and trusts him and, in Roy Hodgson, Cole believes he has found that manager.

Cole said earlier in the summer that when he made up his mind about which club to join after Chelsea released him, the decision would not be based on money or geography but on football.

He wanted to go somewhere where the manager was not suspicious of him and did not try to emasculate him. He wanted to go somewhere where he could play in a central position.

He wanted to be a major influence on a game, not stuck out on its margins.

Liverpool promises him all those things.

Cole's career so far has been an indictment of English football and its refusal to nurture creativity. It sees creativity and exiles it to football Vladivostock, as far from the centre as it is possible to get.

It does not promote it and glorify it as Germany has promoted the talent of Mesut Ozil. English football does not judge a creative talent like Cole by his creativity. It judges him on failures to track back or mistimed tackles.

It searches out reasons to call him a failure and to turn him into something conventional and workaday. Now, hopefully, Cole will be given a chance to try to change that.

The move to Anfield says a lot about him and his strength of character. It would have been easier for him to stay in London where he has always played and where his family lives. He could have explored the offers being made by Spurs and Arsenal.

But he knows this is the perfect opportunity for him because Hodgson and Liverpool need to make the move work.

Cole represents an exciting departure for a team that had begun to become stolid and sterile in the dying days of Rafael Benitez.

As Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher said yesterday, the signing of Cole is a statement of intent from Liverpool, an indication that there is life beyond their failure to qualify for the Champions League.

Cole's signing has transformed the mood at Anfield. It holds out the promise that instead of being a season dominated by damage limitation, it can be a campaign that forces Liverpool back amongst the elite.

If Benitez's team last season came to be defined by the prosaic talents of Lucas, the signing of Cole is a signal that Hodgson will practise a different philosophy.

It seems more likely now that Gerrard will stay and any team that features both him and Cole pulling the strings behind a striker like Fernando Torres would be an attacking force to be reckoned with.

And if that sounds like a lot of pressure to heap on Cole's shoulders, that's fine. Cole's ready for the responsibility. He's tired of being ignored and marginalised. He wants pressure, not Vladivostock.

Fancy winning £3,000 for FREE this month? Play Mirror Football Streak for your chance to win cash prizes! Start predicting now!

Your comments

Latest columnists