Trevor: Pleased Fredi's Back

Trevor Brooking is delighted that Fredi Kanoute is edging closer to full fitness - and says Joe Cole's critics should back off.

With Fredi back in full training after a long lay off, Trevor says:

"Fredi is back in the frame, although with Paolo playing well and Jermain back to scoring form and having played so well last week, it will be difficult to leave either of those two out.

"But it is a case of which way Glenn wants to go, and there is a big flurry of matches over the Christmas period.

"We want him to get his match fitness up and we can't afford to be missing him for that tough spell coming up then.

"When he broke down before the Sunderland game everyone was pretty deflated, none more so than Fredi himself.

"We have definitely missed his physical presence and the ability to knock it up to someone who can hold it up.

"We have missed him defensively as well; we have been exposed at the near post recently, an area which he usually covers with his height - so his return will give us a little bit extra on set pieces.

"His absence in the last seven weeks has exposed the fact that we were one striker short - we will just have to see whether we can rectify that in January."

Indeed, it is that physical presence which Trevor sees as a major threat at the weekend, and he adds:

"Villa are quite dangerous on set pieces; they have Steve Staunton and Gareth Barry, who are both good deliverers of a ball, and Dion Dublin is playing up front for them at the moment.

"They also have Vassell, Allbaek, Angel, and the tall lad Crouch so there is plenty of aerial power there - something that hasn't always been our strength.

"That could be a key element of the game, not forgetting that Villa have put a little run together based on a strong defence.

"From our point of view, it is a case of building on the Manchester United performance, and of course the second half against Leeds was encouraging - but you couldn't dispel what had gone on in the first half."

A couple of newspaper articles have been less than kind to Joe Cole recently, but Trevor feels he has been a victim of the immense publicity which he has not courted himself - but which has followed him since before he even got into the first team.

"The problem is he had all the hype a couple of years ago where he was going to be Maradona and Pele all rolled into one," says Trevor.

"Now, with the emergence of the lad at Forest, as well as Rooney and Jenas, that might hopefully help Joe.

"It seemed the whole focus in the summer had been on him being the saviour of English football, but it is a case of everyone being patient.

"He is only just 21 and in my day a lot of people that age were in and out of the team, whereas he has been in a couple of years.

"There has been a lot of expectation surrounding him and Michael Carrick but it has been a tough three months, and it is asking a lot for the likes of those two and Jermain to be responsible for the team when we go through a tough patch.

"But as long as Joe keeps working hard it will all come together - and I am really pleased to see Michael kicking on in the last three or four games."