Return of the prodigal ahead of FA Cup tie

Posted by Peter Thorne

Craig Prentis/Getty ImagesWest Ham isn't getting the 2001 model of Joe Cole (above), but he could be of good value to the Hammers

The likely return of Joe Cole to the West Ham ranks is one of those gambles that could pay off spectacularly or could otherwise in tears.

- Joe Cole having Hammers medical

When Cole left at the end of the 2003 relegation season, it marked the end of the Hammers 'Dream Team' that never was, Joe being the lynchpin of the youth side that - aided by the already burgeoning talents of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard's young lad - was expected to lead the east London side to the type of glory not seen since the mid-1960s.

I remember then-chairman Terence Brown stating that he believed "one day Joe will be back" and so it has proved. Of course, the question is what will West Ham be getting? A battle-worn, weary, injury-prone has-been or a player who still has much to prove; someone who, despite an impressive array of medals from his days at Chelsea has somehow not quite convinced everyone of his worth?

I obviously hope the latter and I have a feeling that a Cole relieved of the pressure of expecting to revive the fortunes of some of the Premiership's leading outfits, might find a handy little niche back on his old stomping ground. In any case, one of the major issues of team's returning to the Premier League is the lack of strength in depth and Cole will at least offer West Ham some options from the bench.

If Sam Allardyce can get him back to a reasonable type of fitness, this could be a very handy bit of business.

Cup is worth the effort

For some people, the FA Cup third round is one of the most magical days in the sporting calendar; for others, it is an anachronism, an out-dated competition no more relveant than a football with laces and something that doesn't sit well with the golden fortune available in the Champions League.

Fortunately, I'm of the age where the former is the overriding feeling and Saturday's third-round matchup against Manchester United is about as good as it gets. In many ways, not being able to negotiate a couple of easy rounds early on is something of a disappointment but I know from bitter experience that 'easy' ties don't always turn out that way and tough draws often lead to success.

In any case, as was shown by West Ham's 4-0 trouncing of United in their League Cup run during the Grant relegation season, Ferguson's men don't always treat domestic competitions with the full concentration they should and I'm hopeful that this tie won't be the foregone conclusion many seem to think it will be.

Whatever happens though, I hope Sam treats the match with the seriousness it deserves and plays a full team, without the unneccessary 'resting' of players that so incenses the fans. I think West Ham will be comfortable in the Premier League table come the end of the season and a serious assault on a Cup run would be really welcome.

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