Glenn: Lads Did Well

Glenn Roeder says Joe Cole's critics should give him some breathing space - and remember that he is years away from his peak.

Giving his assessment of how the West Ham players fared in England's friendly defeat by Italy, he says he is disappointed that Joe losing possession for Italy's equaliser has been made more of than his diligence in winning the ball to set Robbie Fowler up for the opener.

He also feels that David James and Trevor Sinclair did their chances no harm at all on Wednesday.

But Glenn feels it is a case of people thinking the glass is half empty rather than half full in the case of Joe, and says: "People had plenty to say about him getting caught for the equaliser, but it is a shame that they don't look at the more positive side and give him praise for how hard he has worked, his motivation, drive, and desire to get that ball off the Italians to create the opening goal for Robbie Fowler.

"Joe has done so much more of that this year and that has gone unnoticed at times. He has added that ability to tackle and win the ball to his game and that side of his football doesn't get the credit it deserves.

"It's a shame that people have tended to pick up on the negatives rather than the positives, and what people must remember, as they must with Michael Carrick, and to a lesser extent Jermain Defoe, is that Joe is just 20-years-old.

"The Italians didn't have anyone in their squad that age; the boy that came on after playing for the under-21s only did so because Vieri was injured and I'd be confident to say that the neither the Germans, the Spanish, nor the Dutch have 20-year-olds playing in the senior team.

"It is the culture in this country to push kids on, often before they are ready to be, and I was very pleased that Sven-Goran Eriksson stuck up for Joe afterwards and said he will learn from it, which is the important thing.

"For him to say that as the England team manager was terrific, and those words will help Joe in the long run.

"So I think when you look at his performance overall, he didn't let England down and he didn't let himself down.

"He is only going to get better, as is Michael, as is Jermain, but we must try to protect our young players more than we do at times, because they are under enough pressure as it is."

Indeed, Joe's persistence in winning the ball for Fowler draws this comment: "A year ago people would never have believed he could have done that. Joe Cole is not just a player that runs with the ball and drifts past players - he has got a lot more in his game than that.

"He is far from the finished article and each season that comes and goes will see him get better. Whatever he does this year, he will do better next year, and the year after he will do better again.

"Players don't peak until they are 27 or 28, so there are many years in front of Michael, Joe, and Jermain before they come anywhere near fulfilling their potential.

"We have to be excited by them being that far down the road already as 20-year-olds - or 19 as in Jermain's case; but don't go and punish them when they are so young and they make the odd mistake, because you have to make a mistake or two to learn from things.

"Of course it would have been nice if we had won 1-0 or drawn 1-1, but it wasn't to be, and if we are going to lose a game it is probably better to do that now than in the World Cup."

David James and Trevor Sinclair also got more senior experience under their belts, and Glenn adds: "I thought it was very pleasing at the start of the second half that West Ham had three players on the field.

"Everyone knows what David James has done for us and what a good goalkeeper he is. He had no chance whatsoever with the equaliser and if Montella had placed the ball with his hands he couldn't have got it any tighter into the corner.

"Sometimes you have to put your hands in the air and admire the execution, and that is what you have to do there.

"On the penalty it was either going to be a great save or a penalty, and he had to come to commit himself because it was such a good through ball slid in.

"If David had stayed at home on his line their player would have had a nice first touch and faced David in the shape of a penalty kick, really, because he was only 10 or 12 yards out, so I'm sure he would have scored anyway.

"When you look at it David was an inch or two away from a great save but it wasn't to be and the penalty was cleverly taken.

"There wasn't much more David could have done, and he made a great save earlier down to his left.

"Trevor, who played most of the game, acquitted himself really well. It came through on the television that the crowd had taken to his performance, and he did some really good things - I would think he gave the England manager plenty to think about because it was a good performance."

Of the game overall, he says: "I thought it was a fairly typical friendly and I'm glad that people didn't go crashing into each other. The last thing that anyone wants, but especially at this time of year, because it is such an important time when the prizes are handed out, is to get injuries.

"I thought the game was played at a sensible tempo. People might have said it wasn't the best spectacle but the important thing is Sven-Goran Eriksson got the players together for a few days, and every time he does that he gets to know them a bit better.

"You have only got to listen to the England manager's comments about the importance of togetherness and people being able to get on with each other to know how important he sees team building, so it was important for him to get them together, to look at them not only in the game situation, but in training as well."