The 33-year-old showed glimpses of his well-known quality with a solid performance in his first start for Villa against Burnley last Saturday, netting his first league goal for the club since his arrival on a free transfer in the summer.
Offering a cutting edge and attacking prowess to a Villa side that has clearly lacked such qualities in their recent nine-match winless spell, his efforts in the 1-1 draw at Turf Moor last week was one of few positives that Villa fans could take from their lackluster performances of late.
At 33-years-old and in the twilight of his career, it’s hard to argue that Cole’s best playing days lie in his past. His form against Burnley proves that class is everlasting; but fitness is another matter, as serious injuries of the past have come back to haunt the attacking midfielder often throughout his career.
Colombian defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez came on to replace Cole after nine minutes against Crystal Palace on Tuesday, with injury bringing his game at Selhurst Park to an end, preventing any chance for him to build on his performances from the previous week.
Villa manager Paul Lambert will have been hoping Cole could build on his positive performance in the coming matches as the Birmingham side look to better their form, but any consistency will be prevented if Cole’s fitness cannot improve. Since Tuesday’s game, there has been no word from the Scot on Cole’s injury status and whether he misses Sunday’s match against Leicester City remains to be seen.
Even with his playing days having been plagued by injuries, Cole still boasts all the accolades of a glittering football career, having played over 350 league games for the likes of West Ham United, Chelsea and Liverpool since making his senior debut for West Ham, his boyhood club, back in 1998.
The vast experience that the London-born midfielder possesses after having played in some memorable matches is invaluable, and his intelligence on the pitch is something Villa can really benefit from, having performed with a distinct naivety about their play in recent seasons with a predominately youthful squad.
His fitness with be a major factor in whether this particular acquisition by Lambert will prove a coup, as Villa will see no benefit by adding yet another name to their ever-growing injury list that includes captain Ron Vlaar and star midfielder Fabian Delph.
Return to fitness
Cole recently spoke of his recent hunger for games, stating that making a playing contribution is the priority over money, having recently taken a pay-cut to join Villa ahead of lucrative opportunities in the Middle East.
Speaking to the press after the draw at Turf Moor, Cole said “I could have gone and filled my pockets, and that’s not a criticism of the players who do that because it’s a short career and we’re not really qualified to do anything else after football. I’ve been lucky enough and the fire still burns for me.”
“I just want to play. I enjoy it. I prefer to be in Burnley at Turf Moor than playing in the Middle East somewhere in 100 degrees. You know what I mean? It’s a proper game.”
With the class and attitude that he possesses even in the latter stages of his career, Cole could yet prove to be a valuable asset for Villa on and off the pitch. Having scored his debut goal for the club, Villa fans will be hoping that there is more to come from him.