Mixed day for Cole

Carlton Cole admitted to having mixed emotions after making his return after seven weeks out with a groin injury in Saturday's Barclays Premier League defeat by Everton.

The West Ham United striker, who was hurt in England's 4-0 international friendly win over Slovakia at Wembley on 28 March, returned as a half-time substitute at Goodison Park.

Cole, the Hammers' top scorer with eleven goals in 2008/09, had one gilt-edged opportunity to add to his tally with the score poised at 2-1 in the Toffees' favour, but a momentary pause allowed Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard to snatch the ball off his toe.


"Obviously the manager decided not to start me but it was a good call because, when I came on, it was a bit hard for me to get straight into the game and be as influential as I wanted to be," said the 25-year-old.

"I had one good opportunity to score, but I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be. If I'd been a bit more aggressive with it and taken it on first-time and tried to dink it over the goalkeeper, maybe I would have scored and it would have turned the game a bit, but it wasn't to be."

Despite the twin disappointments of missing his chance and losing the match, and with it the chance of reaching next season's UEFA Europa League, Cole was still feeling positive after returning from injury a month ahead of schedule.

"I'm feeling good. The medical staff here, [physiotherapist] George Cooper and the Doc [medical officer] Nikos [Tzouroudis], have done a really good job to get me back to where I am. I am four weeks ahead of schedule and I am very grateful to the medical staff. They've got me here and I wasn't even looking to be playing this season, so I am grateful."

Cole admitted that he and his team-mates were feeling down after seeing their dreams of European football evaporate on Merseyside, but said manager Gianfranco Zola had told the squad they should be proud of their efforts.

With key players such as Valon Behrami, Scott Parker, Dean Ashton and Cole himself missing large chunks of the season, the striker revealed that Zola had heaped praise on those called upon in their absences.

"The boys are really disheartened. We've worked so hard this season. A lot of the boys have really stepped up to the plate when they've been asked to play because a few of the players who have been playing regularly have got injured. The players who have come in have done a brilliant job. I am so proud of them. The manager said that in the changing room after the game."