Cole Bouncing Back

Joe Cole agrees wholeheartedly with Harry Redknapp's weekend assertion that he has to find the right position in the team.

Joe was on the bench at Villa Park, but his contribution to the game was vital when he 'earnt' the free kick that led to West Ham grabbing a point after Igor Stimac's header came off the post into Frank Lampard's path.

Not unexpectedly, the focus of attention was on Joe being rested as the Hammers gained their first point in five league games.

Harry said after the game: "I know it might sound strange, but Joe might have to 'learn' a position" - and the player himself concurs:

"I haven't as yet got a regular position in the side, I'm always chopping and changing - I've played on the right, in the centre, and on the left."

Harry said he might "end up playing off the front man" and Joe adds:

"Playing off the one striker would be nice although we've got a player who does that for us at the moment.

"I'm just looking forward to getting in the side any which way."

It is a long running dilemma for Harry Redknapp, with Paolo di Canio a not dissimilar player, and, as both Paolo and Harry have said themselves in recent days, Freddie possibly needing a box type strike partner.

The notion of that being Joe himself may not be beyond the realms of reason, and Joe says:

"Up front is a possibility, whoever it's alongside - I can play anywhere in attack."

Not, in any sense, however, is Joe moaning about his situation.

Not only does he have the utmost professional respect for John Moncur, as he has often stated, he knows that experience - both good and bad - is making him a better player.

"It is a learning curve and everything that happens to me will give me more strength in the game," he reasons.

"I'm learning every day."

That said, he insists that he will redouble his efforts to be a regular name on the team sheet.

This is not the arrogance of youth; rather the tacit acknowledgement that, after all the publicity he has received from a ridiculously early age, there is no substitute for consistency.

He confesses:

"I know I've been playing below par for the last few weeks, but then again so has 90% of the team.

"But it's me that's been dropped and I have to take it on the chin.

"You have to pick yourself up and make sure you are ready when you get the shout.

"I just want to get my head down and get on with the business of winning games."

Joe has spoken to Harry about what his manager wants from him and received a sympathetic ear.

He reveals:

"We've had a chat and he knows I wasn't happy about sitting on the bench.

"I'm never going to be - even if it is just for one game.

"He understands that I'm not going to be happy being a squad member."

It is an attitude that the Hammers' boss wants from his players, of course, rather than simply having 'passengers' on board who are happy to play in the reserves and pick up their wages, and Joe adds:

"If you are happy on the bench and you are a footballer there is something wrong.

"Everyone wants to play, and hopefully I will get back in the side on saturday, and hopefully it doesn't happen again.

"Yes, I believe I warrant a place in the side, but the gaffer's got to pick the team - and we did get a point on saturday.

"Even if I did feel it was a bit harsh to be dropped you can't really argue.

"Of course it all boils down to me wanting West Ham to do well.

"It is all down to the boss picking the right team and the right players."

Joe has spoken many times of his 'love affair' with West Ham and this recent poor spell hasn't affected it.

It's not even a lover's tiff!

Joe says:

"I pledged my future to West Ham when I signed my contract.

"I'm happy at West Ham; I want to stay here for many years, and hopefully I can make West Ham successful.

"There's no footballer in the land who should be happy to be dropped but it's all about how you conduct yourself.

"If I thought I was the weakest link it would be easy to swallow!

"But the gaffer thought differently and you can't complain.

"I'm just going to continue to push myself in training to make myself a better player."

There are mitigating circumstances, of course, though Joe, with his intense pride, is too modest to use them as an excuse.

Firstly, he is part of the youngest midfield in the land - and like Michael, still a teenager.

Secondly, his season was interrupted by a quite serious ankle injury.

But, on that, he says simply:

"That's part and parcel of being a footballer; hopefully now I can go ten years without an injury - though I think that's highly unlikely!"

It must also be said that Joe's burning desire to play every minute of every game is the consequence of being desperate to bring success to the West Ham fans that he respects so much.

"Derby is a big game for us, and if we win, we should be safe," he says.

"We've had a string of defeats and got dragged into it whereas a few wins and we'd have been right up there.

"All the players feel with the ability we've got in the squad we should be beating teams like Aston Villa.

"As for me, I don't care what people say about me at all - I just care about whether I'm doing it on the pitch and West Ham are winning."