LEO'S LONDON: If Joe Cole is to burn bright again, the only way forward is through the Chelsea exit
Joe Cole has every right to feel sorry for himself right now. Left out by his country and given the familiar role of bit-part player for his club, it is not a golden moment in his career. Cole deserves better on both fronts and he is going to have to think hard about the best way to get it. At 28, the playmaker is heading towards what is usually considered the most important contract of a playing career. He should be entering his peak as a player and enjoying the rewards onand off the pitch. Instead, it looks like Cole's Chelsea contractcould expire before a new one is agreed and his role at the club,six-and-a-half years after joining, remains unclear. Staying at home? Joe Cole with former team-mate Wayne Bridge Nearly a third of his Chelsea appearances have come from the bench and he seldom seems to finish games that he starts. Injuries have been a problem but even when Cole has been fit, he has never completely fitted in at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho may have forced him to add discipline to his game but he is a maverick at heart and the modern Chelsea don't have much room for them. As a result, and despite everything he has achieved, it is hard not to fee the former West Ham player still has potential to fulfill. Leaving a big, successful club that he clearly loves to try to get the best out of himself would be an extremely radical move for Cole. It could cost him money, prestige and medals, but there are other teams who could accommodate his talents better. More from Leo Spall... LEO'S LONDON: It's hard to show sympathy for sensitive Woodgate24/02/10 LEO'S LONDON: Mourinho is having a laugh over his latest Chelsea claims17/02/10 LEO'S LONDON: Arsenal face heartfelt blow if Spurs pip them to third10/02/10 LEO'S LONDON: Battle of Stamford Bridge could prove Arsenal's last stand03/02/10 LEO'S LONDON: Tottenham misfit Pavlyuchenko points the way to what is wrong with football27/01/10 LEO'S LONDON: Four years on, Theo Walcott must now prove he's World Cup class20/01/10 LEO'S LONDON: Simon Jordan may have ruffled a few feathers, but the game will be duller without him13/01/10 LEO'S LONDON: Florent Malouda will get nowhere with his Frank talking - Lampard is Mr Chelsea06/01/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVEWhen Neil Warnock became Crystal Palace manager he said it would be his last job in the game. When the club started suffering financial difficulties under Simon Jordan's stewardship he told everyone to rally round. But as soon as QPR came calling the manager jumped ship. All the goodwill and support Warnock had built up since arriving at Selhurst Park in 2007 went in that moment. And to think that Palace fans were so pleased with the way he was managing the club some compared him to Steve Coppell, the man who stayed and saw them through administration. Those who argue Warnock had no choice should think again. The 61-year-old has not been sitting around waiting for his big break in the game and he has not been lured away by Barcelona. Only two of his players were sold in the last transfer window and the others who were encouraged to stay will now be wondering why. In fact, the changes at Palace have not been as radical as some might think and the administrator wanted him to stay. Sure, Warnock is in a better position at QPR, who have offered assurances he will not have to put up with any boardroom interference. He will have money to spend too and will probably do a very good job. No-one would have begrudged him the move at the end of the season, but he left when Palace needed him most. If they go down after he has left them for one of their rivals in the Championship survival fight, he will be the villain of the piece. It can only be hoped that by giving Arsenal an added sense of purpose something good comes out of Aaron Ramsey's awful misfortune. Thomas Vermaelen sounded like he was led into saying his team would be playing for their injured young team-mate until the end of the season. But by the look on his face and those of others such as Cesc Fabregas and Sol Campbell when they saw the damage done by Ryan Shawcross's challenge, the incident will not be quickly forgotten. Rampage: Thomas Vermaelen (centre) is mobbed after his goal at Stoke The sense of injustice at Arsenal is clearly strong and they can use that to add further impetus to their revitalised title challenge. It may be misplaced because tackles similar to Shawcross's - that don't result in injury - are made in several games every week that they are not involved in, but that matters little. Arsenal sincerely feel they are being targeted, that their style of play is under attack and as a result they can shrink or win.
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