Cole Nearly There

Joe Cole says he is not far off full fitness - and has nearly won the battle against his problematic foot injury.

"I have trained for four days and it is a little bit sore afterwards," he says, "but I am just trying to get my fitness up and make the bench for Monday against Charlton.

"Everyone has had a different opinion on what it was but it was always getting better. I am taking big strides now, able to train and play with minimum discomfort.

"I think it will just fade away and it is a great relief to be out there training and playing; it has put my mind at rest and it will be even more at rest when I am completely pain free.

"It is very hard to diagnose the problem and I have been to lots of different specialists, to Manchester at the hydropool, and I have had injections.

"I have done everything I possibly could have, and I don't want to tempt fate but I think it is there now."

He denies the notion that the injury was a figment of his imagination, and says: "Of course I want to play; I have got no fear of playing football at any level and I will never be scared to do that.

"It is certainly nothing to do with fear, it is pain - that is the bottom line; there is nothing psychological about it.

"In the first four games I played I wasn't really there because I was compensating in the games and thought I could run it off, but I couldn't.

"I have sat out six or seven games and now I want to prove to all the fans what a good player I am.

"West Ham fans think they have seen a lot of me but no one has really seen what I can do.

"I have played about 60 games in the first team now but they have been sparsely spread over three years and I've never really had a run in the side.

"I have had a stop-start time and been really unlucky with injuries.

"I just want to put my injury problems behind me and show everyone at West Ham what I can do and what a good player I am.

"I want to go out there and I want to do well; I know it will take me games to get 100% but once I do I will kick on."

He insists that his international ambitions for this season should not be unduly curtailed, and adds: "People are saying to me that maybe I have left it too late for the World Cup with this injury and missing the start of the season, but it is just another challenge for me and I am going to enjoy it.

"My short term goal is the bench on Monday, and my long term goal is to get as many points as I can for West Ham to get us up to the top of the table, help us to a good cup run, and get in the World Cup squad as well.

"It is going to be hard; I'm not stupid, but it is three months from now to the next England game - that is 15 or 16 games, and when given the chance to play for your country you have to be lucky enough to do well and perform when needed at the big games.

"There is a mental challenge about whether you can take the pressure and I have never felt any presssure, ever, playing football.

"Playing for West Ham and my country is all I've ever wanted to do."

Although Joe didn't play in the reserves this week, he will be in the squad to face Charlton, and he adds: "I know unless there is a plague at the club I'm not going to start but I still feel I could play 10 or 20 minutes if needed.

"It is up to the gaffer but I'm putting myself in the frame.

"If we win Monday night and then against Spurs we'll be pushing on there.

"But Glenn has got nothing to prove to anyone; he's completely turned the club round."

Joe insists recent setbacks are just a career 'blip' and adds: "The best is still to come and you don't play your best football until you are 25."

But he does admit casting an envious, if friendly, eye at club mates Trevor Sinclair and Michael Carrick, who have both starred for the full and under-21 England sides recently.

"Michael has come in and has stayed in and has been injury free. He is getting stronger and stronger and is doing really well," says Joe.

"Trevor has made his full debut as well now and it's hard to watch them because although they are your mates and you want them to do well I want to be there as well.

"As soon as I get fit I have got plenty of confidence in my own ability and I know I will start challenging for a place."

And he admits he hopes Trevor Sinclair will stay at the club despite his recent transfer request, concluding: "I know Trevor and he has given 100% ever since he put in his request and if we string a few results together he might change his mind."