He played that sublime backheel beyond Edwin van der Sar, the Manchester United goalkeeper, for Chelsea's first goal and across the country people wondered: 'Hey, how did we forget that Joe Cole is actually a great footballer?'
Think about it. All that fuss about injury to Wayne Rooney and David Beckham; the worry over Steven Gerrard's inconsistent season; the doubts about Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon's form and fitness. And still nobody mentions the player whose goals in England's first World Cup qualifying match kick-started the revival under Fabio Capello.
Pure class: Joe Cole's audacious back heel beats Patrick Evra to put Chelsea ahead at Old Trafford
Cole was Capello's lucky charm in the early days. He rescued afriendly with the Czech Republic, then did the same in the second-halfagainst Andorra. From there, England flew to play Croatia in Zagreb,where Cole was so central to the action he was bludgeoned out of the game in desperation by Robert Kovac.
England were winning 1-0 when Kovac was dismissed and the finalscore was 4-1. Walcott scored a hat-trick so few remember Cole'scontribution, including Capello, it would seem.
Cole has not played for England since.
He lost his place when Capello moved Gerrard to a starting positionon the left. He seemed established as Gerrard's understudy, though,until a series of injuries took him out of the remainder of thecompetitive campaign. By the time he had returned, Capello's eye hadbeen caught by Aston Villa's James Milner, who can play a variety ofroles, including defence.
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Maybe Saturday's game will jog his memory because, watching Cole atOld Trafford, to have this man outside the England squad is a terriblewaste. Why is it that English football struggles to accommodate anyplayer who is different or whose talents might require further thought?
We will find room for all manner of battering ram strikers andflying wingers with erratic delivery in South Africa, but a player withthe wit to unlock a game as Cole did against Manchester United cannotsecure a seat on the plane.
Cole's lot is to be sorely underused by England, even when selected.He made a single substitute appearance at the World Cup in 2002 and didnot feature at the European Championship in 2004. When Rooney wasinjured against Portugal in the quarter-final, Sven Goran Erikssonlooked along his bench and instead sent on Darius Vassell. Englandchased channel balls for the rest of the match and lost on penalties.
It was not just that Cole scored on Saturday, but that he had theskill and confidence to do so with a backheel in the biggest match ofthe season. Gianfranco Zola did this, even more spectacularly, forChelsea against Norwich in 2002, but there is a difference between aflick to score the third goal in an FA Cup replay, against a team froma lower division and one that might dethrone the champions. Cole's goalhad a touch of Eric Cantona about it, an air of great theatre andpanache.
Outstanding: Cole was substituted by Ancelotti after his tour de force at Old Trafford
Rooney, watching stricken from an executive box seat, will havecursed the consequences but not the flourish, or Cole's leap ofimagination. He has long been an advocate of Cole's inclusion forEngland, even confiding the belief that Cole's natural technique issuperior to his own. Certainly, it was a goal that not every Englandplayer would have the boldness to attempt; not in a big match, anyway.
It may even have served as a timely reminder to Sir Alex Ferguson.If English football has never been best suited to managing Cole, he hasnot been helpfully served by Italian pragmatism, either. CarloAncelotti, the Chelsea manager, believes his style of play slows thegame down and it is fair to say he has been better appreciatedthroughout his career by Ferguson, who took an interest in his careereven as a schoolboy at West Ham United.
With Cole's contract due to expire in the summer, Ferguson could doworse than take him to Old Trafford as a foil for Rooney. The same goesfor Capello. There is not so much flair in the England team that we canafford to erase a true artist from our memories.
The sick man of Europe: Aquilani (left)
All we ever hear of Rafael Benitez is his thoroughness and obsessiveattention to detail.
So how come he was the only manager on the planetwho did not know that Alberto Aquilani, his £17million replacement forXabi Alonso, was injury prone?
He was injured when Liverpool boughthim, for heaven's sake.
Why should Sky provide cheap sports coverage to rival broadcasters, as Ofcom insist?
What have Virgin or BT done for sport in this country anyway? Whathave they done for television for that matter? They produce next tonothing. They offer little that is new. Have a look at the Virgin 1schedule for the holiday weekend. Star Trek repeats without end, 14-year-old American sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Britain's Worst Wives and a film from 1988 with Michelle Pfeiffer. And these were the highlights.
Were the money saved leeching on Sky's investment to be reinvestedin quality programming it would be different. We are not likely to get Play for Today out of the Ofcom ruling, though; just more second-hand dross.
Time to tell Semenya to take a run and jumpCaster Semenya is agitating to return to the track before the IAAF report on her gender verification tests has been delivered.
'I am an athlete first and foremost,' she said in what then became avery elaborate statement. Such modesty. If these were indeed Semenya'swords she clearly has quite a career in law awaiting her, too.
At ease with legalese? Semenya
Indeed, so precise was her articulation, one could have beenforgiven for thinking the speech came directly from the practised penof a fancy legal team.
Unless, of course, Semenya does use phrases like'given also that I expected these processes to be expedited, I, on myown volition' or 'notwithstanding the infringement of my rights, Ihave attempted to understand and sympathise with the institutionalshortcomings' or 'I requested my legal advisers to prevail upon thegovernment to open negotiations with the IAAF by sending an emissary tonegotiate a fair and equitable settlement of this matter'
Maybe she did. Maybe she reads a lot of John Grisham. Maybe thelocals all speak like that in the villages of northern Limpopoprovince; or maybe this is a naked attempt to threaten the IAAF whileit is known to be weak, with Jean Poczobut, its treasurer, warning ofthe possibility of bankruptcy.
In the present climate, the IAAF would run a mile from a costlylegal challenge, which is unfortunate as the governing body ofathletics does seem to have made every effort to act honourably andthoroughly over Semenya while dealing with uniquely difficultcircumstances.
It should tell her people to go screw themselves and at this point you will have to write your own punch line, as the Daily Mail's legal team has a number of issues with mine.
Having seen the God-awful design for the ArcelorMittal Orbit at theOlympic park, couldn't its financial sponsor, Lakshmi Mittal, do us alla favour and blow £16million on Queens Park Rangers instead?
AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT.For those concerned with financial fair play, there is interestingnews from Greece. Executives running the domestic Super League arevexed by a government decision to withhold a £35.56million sponsorshippayment, in protest at failure to deal with fan violence. There werelarge-scale fights at three league matches last weekend and clashesbetween supporters at a cup semi-final spilled on to the pitch.
Football administrators called the government decision economicblackmail. It is intriguing, though, that this state support,commonplace in many European countries, is never mentioned by MichelPlatini, the UEFA president, when he is condemning debt levels inEnglish football.
A nice bung of more than £2m each not to mention the level ofmunicipal support clubs in France receive when building new stadiums,or the tax breaks foreign footballers are given to play in Spain would come in very handy right now.
Instead, English football is required to remain wholly self-sufficient. Not all that fair, is it?
Achieng Ajulu-Bushell was born in Manchester, has an English mother, a British passport and has represented Plymouth Leander swimming club for three years. She would be a great medal prospect for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics were it not for one thing: at the World Championships in Rome last August, she swam for Kenya, the country of her father.
Ajulu-Bushell now wishes to change nationality. Her mother says this is to do with finding her identity as a 16-year-old, although a cynic would argue the matter of earning potential as a British medal winner at the London games might also have an influence.
FINA, swimming's governing body, insists there must be a one-year break between competitions in the event of a switch but the International Olympic Committee extends that period to three years. The Olympic Games begin on July 27, 2012, meaning Ajulu-Bushell will need dispensation if she is to compete.
Nobody would wish to be forever committed to choices made as a teenager, but the British Olympic Association must be careful. Nationality must not be selected for commercial reasons and there could be any number of athletes wrongly motivated to switch before 2012.
Remember the athlete Malachi Davis, who had never set foot in Great Britain until the 2004 Olympic trials and received his passport two days before the team was announced?
Ajulu-Bushell may be genuine, but we do not want another travesty.
Jose Mourinho will not remain in Italy beyond this season and is clearly in no mood to stay friends. 'I don't like Italian football and it doesn't like me,' he said last week.
There were some predictably bitter responses. 'What is so special about him?' asked Maurizio Zamparfini, president of Palermo.
'With the players Inter Milan have, I could win the title.' Of course, they thought this at Chelsea, too. It is never quite that simple.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, was correct in saying that the financial plight of Portsmouth has damaged English football.
Most harmfully, it has allowed government chancers to poke their noses in, with fanciful promises to supporters.
Considering that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, wilfully misled the public about waiving VAT payments on a charity record for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, what likelihood do you think there is of him honouring his promises to the followers of the likes of Accrington Stanley once the election is over?
So, taking the mistakes in order, that was a definite Manchester United penalty ignored, a definite Chelsea penalty waved away, an offside Chelsea goal allowed, and a handballed Manchester United goal given.
Right, so chalk on an extra goal for United and an extra goal for Chelsea and chalk off the Didier Drogba goal and the reply from Federico Macheda. Final score: Manchester United 1 Chelsea 2.
A very lucky man, referee Mike Dean. A very lucky man, indeed.