Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea, while awful for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, will go down as arguably the lowest point in what has been in many ways a fantastic career for Cole.
Cole’s current situation serves as a reminder of just how far you can fall in football. A man who has three Premier League winner’s medals, three FA Cup winner’s medals, and 56 England caps, found himself booed by his own fans, and controversially criticised by his new manager last week.
The decision by Rodgers to substitute Cole at half time was compounded by his comments in the press after the game, which led to further humiliation for the former Chelsea man.
“Joe Cole had an opportunity, the club has invested an astronomical sum of money in a talented player and he has to seize his opportunities,” Rodgers said.
“It [Liverpool’s approach] was too slow, it just was not what I would expect from a team I had set up to be dynamic so I think it was a difficult night for him.”
Two big questions have emerged from Liverpool’s Wednesday night debacle, the first being the issue of where on earth does Joe Cole go from here? The second and most controversial, is did Brendan Rodgers cross a line with his criticism?
Rodgers has already shown in his short time as Liverpool manager that he is not afraid to speak his mind. Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing have already discovered this first hand, and now Joe Cole has felt the full force of his manager’s frustration.
The reference to the ‘astronomical’ wages Cole is on at Anfield seemed to overstep the mark, as never before have you heard a manager come out and make a reference to a player being overpaid. The Liverpool fans already know about Cole’s hefty salary, which fuels their dislike of their number 10. I don’t see how Rodgers’ reference to his wages is going to help repair that relationship, and in turn help Cole perform any better.
It seemed Wednesday night’s defeat to a former club really hurt Rodgers, who found himself ridiculed by the fans who used to adore him with chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ ringing around Anfield. Perhaps in the immediate aftermath of the game Rodgers let his frustration get the better of him, and directed his anger towards Cole, a man who is something of an easy target.
Liverpool fans have never particularly warmed to Cole since his arrival in the summer of 2010. Signed by Roy Hodgson on a free transfer, Cole was immediately made one of Liverpool’s highest earners on a salary of £100k a week in a bid to see off other competitors for his signature. The high wages have always been a source of anger for Liverpool fans, alongside the fact he spent so many years at fierce rivals Chelsea.
A red card on his Premier League debut was a sign of things to come, as Cole struggled for fitness and form before losing his first team place with the arrival of Kenny Dalglish. A successful loan spell at Lille followed last season, with 9 goals in 38 games and regular Champions League football – it seemed the old Joe Cole was close to a comeback.
Rodgers seemed keen to keep him at Anfield, and brought him on as a substitute at West Brom on the opening day of the season, until a hamstring injury struck, ruling him out for the next five weeks. Since then his appearances have been restricted to just one substitute outing in the goalless draw with Stoke, and the first half against Swansea last week.
It begs the question, does the amount of time Cole has had on the pitch warrant such criticism? Is 100 minutes of football over the course of this season enough to make a judgement on his form?
With Liverpool so desperately short of attacking options, it seems strange that Rodgers was eager to cut his losses so quickly on Wednesday and then openly criticise one of the most experienced attacking players Liverpool have on offer. His form at Lille last season showed he is still capable performing to a high level. Perhaps there is something going on behind the scenes, but the sudden disregard seems all a bit odd.
Let us not forget this is a man who was a regular under the likes of Jose Mourinho, Sven Goran-Erikson and Luiz Felipe Scolari, all managers with achievements and pedigree that far outweighs Rodgers’. A bad 45 minutes on Wednesday did not warrant such public criticism, especially for a player like Cole who has achieved a lot in the game. Rodgers should have kept his thoughts to himself.
It appears Cole has no future at Anfield, after he was left out of the squad for the weekend’s match with Newcastle. It is almost unexplainable as to why it has not clicked for him at Liverpool, with such anticipation from the fans on his signing in 2010, and quiet excitement following his return from Lille this summer. There is a talented player in there somewhere, but for whatever reason it seems Liverpool and Rodgers have given up hope of utilising it.
Staying at Anfield unwanted and left to rot in the reserves would be a sad way for Cole to end his career. At 31, he may feel something more drastic than a loan move to Lille is needed if he is to gain any sort of enjoyment from the twilight of his career.
Do you think Rodgers overstepped the mark with his criticism of Joe Cole? Or was it justified? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.