Cole In The Frame

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Glenn Roeder believes that Joe Cole has done his World Cup chances the power of good with an impressive 45-minute display in England's 4-0 friendly victory over Paraguay at Anfield on Wednesday night.

The 20-year-old midfielder created two of England's three second half goals against the south Americans and gave Sven-Goran Eriksson a selection headache for the trip to Japan and South Korea with an exciting and determined all-round performance.

Says the Hammers boss: "I think everyone was pleased with Joe's contribution to the game - you couldn't be anything other than happy with his performance.

"I spoke to him on Thursday morning and he was very chirpy. He knows he had a good 45 minutes that haven't done his chances any harm."

However, for those who already know what the young Hammer is capable of, Wednesday night only served as a reminder of how fickle football, and in particular certain quarters of the English media, can be.

Just three weeks after Cole was castigated for his display in the 2-1 defeat to Italy at Elland Road and considered undeserving of a place in Eriksson's World Cup squad, the same critics are now singing his praises and demanding that he be taken to the far east this summer. 

While Roeder admits that the attention isn't helpful, he insists that Cole has the right temperament and character to deal with the fluctuating coverage that surrounds him.

"The reaction to Joe's performance against Italy was over the top," says Glenn. "He gave the ball away once, and had Montella's shot gone wide, no one would have mentioned it.

"He actually did some good things against the Italians aswell, but people seemed to pick up on the negatives rather than the positives.

"In the big picture, though, it won't do him any harm. Accepting harsh criticism is all part of the learning curve and the way he responded for us since then has proved he can deal with it.

"Joe is getting older and more mature and I have got an important part to play in that side of his development.

"If you have only ever been praised, you can fall apart at the first hint of criticism and the important thing is that his attitude and response since the Italy game has been fantastic."

Indeed, Cole himself has said that the World Cup is now out of his mind as he gets back to Premiership business with the Hammers, and Roeder will ensure that all his players are equally as focused on the task that lies ahead in the final weeks of the campaign.

"We've got four games left now and the aim is to finish in the position we currently hold," he says.

"Sixth place is out of reach for ourselves and everyone below us, so we are in our own little league at the moment - and the target is to finish top of it.

"We want to finish the season strongly, because I think that sends everyone away with the feel-good factor and gives them a spring in their step when they return for pre-season training in July."