Skipper: Joe's Maturing

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Steve Lomas reckons that Joe Cole's game is improving immeasurably now he is playing in centre midfield.

Steve, who is likely to be alongside him in the engine room against Middlesbrough at the weekend, in the continued absence of Michael Carrick, says:

"I think it is good for him to play in this role because it shows him there are other aspects of the game to be a midfielder," he says.

"It isn't just the tricks and the flashy stuff and going past three or four players which he has the natural ability to do.

"I think it was a bit of a noose round his neck being that floater because every time he got it the crowd were expecting him to do something and it put a lot of pressure on him, whereas more times than not the simple ball is the best in midfield.

"You have to do the running back the tackling; it is not just about breaking forward and scoring goals, there is the ugly side as well in centre midfield and it will help him appreciate what it takes to be a midfielder.

"Like I say it was a noose being labelled as a 'free spirit' in the hole; it puts pressure on to do things in areas where it wasn't the best, and I don't think that helped him very much.

"He might not think it at times but it will help him improve his all round game in the centre."

Steve has seen Joe get physically stronger recently, and adds:

"He is still growing as well; he is doing the weights his shoulders have filled out, though he was always a strong boy anyway even if people didn't appreciate it.

"There wasn't much of him, but running with the ball he was always feisty and if he wants to be a top class all round midfielder, which he does, he has to do the things like the Roy Keanes of this world - and he hasn't got Joe's natural ability.

"I'm sure he would say himself that he is getting stronger and relishing playing that midfield role."

Steve hopes that Joe makes it to the World Cup this summer and adds:

"It would be great for him even if he was going along as a learning experience, though he won't see it that way; Rio did it a few campaigns ago - I don't think he played but he said it was a fantastic experience.

"It will be a great World Cup with the organisation and stadia second to none; it is their first big occasion like this and the supporters are double passionate, really partisan fans.

"If he doesn't make it Joe has got plenty of time four years on, but hopefully he, Michael, Trevor and David will go.

"If not he has got plenty of time to get in the England midfield alongside Michael and Stevie Gerrard."