Praise For Birthday Boy

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Glenn Roeder says that Joe Cole can celebrate turning 21 in the knowledge that he is getting better all the time - while Iain Dowie reckons he should be an England regular.

Some observers have picked up on the fact that Joe, who turned 21 on Friday, was not picked for the last England squad as being evidence that his career has in some way stalled for the moment, but Glenn counters:

"He is picking up things all the time; you never stop learning and there is no way he is the finished article.

"He is still on a learning curve and the important thing is he realises that himself; he is very receptive to what you say to him.

"He has proved his versatility by playing wide on both sides as well as in centre midfield; all good players can play in any position, really.

"The term 'free spirit' that he got tagged with is not something I go along with, and Joe has a lot of qualities that people don't recognise.

"He is a good tackler as well as being decent in the air; if he comes in on a cross I always feel there is a chance he could head it home.

"His game is not just about getting the ball down and dribbling - far from it - and eventually, in the next year or two, I see him settling down in the middle of midfield."

Ex-Hammer Iain Dowie, boss at Oldham who have yet to lose away this season, saw Joe at first hand on Wednesday night and does not concur with the youngster's own view that he had a poor game.

"I thought Joe Cole was absolutely outstanding and from what I gather he has been that way throughout the year," says Iain.

"There are all types of bravery but he is a fantastically brave lad because he always wants the ball - and that is a rare trait in a young man.

"We had to deal with him and went man for man with him for the first 40 minutes with Chris Armstrong who is going to be a great player himself."

Iain doesn't understand why he was dropped from the England party and adds:

"I think he is a player that needs to be with international players and what I liked about him on Wednesday was his ability to get away from tight marking.

"He is a talent that needs to be nurtured, and I love his hunger for the game.

"He competes hard, he has a toughness about him, and his end product will come.

"He plays lovely perceptive balls and I thought him and Steve Lomas were excellent for them - and caused us problems.

"What we probably lack in this country is the ability to drift past players and Joe Cole is one of those that can do that very well.

"He would be a good addition to the likes of the Gerrards, the Beckhams, and the Butts, all outstanding players. "I would not be surprised if he became a regular feature in the England squad soon and I would like to see him playing.

"He will be limited only by himself because he has got everything in the game - a good change of pace, low centre of gravity, and wonderful feet.

"I hope he goes on and achieves what he should do with his talent."