Early Doors

Cole woe a concern for Liverpool

Early Doors

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Jamie Carragher claims Joe Cole is a 'God' in Liverpool, but if so the man upstairs must have two left feet, as the new Anfield number 10 has had a shocking start to life at his new club.

Cole was sent off on Sunday for a truly silly scissors challenge on Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny.

Then last night he saw a poor penalty kick saved against Trabzonspor. It was the first he had taken in a competitive match since he was 13. "I scored that one," Cole confirmed.

And if that were not enough, Cole was found guilty on Wednesday of speeding at 105mph and faces a ban, despite the best efforts of celebrity lawyer Nick 'Mr Loophole' Freeman. Quite a week.

Cole will have until next Thursday's return leg against Trabzonspor to stew over his miss, as he now serves a three-match domestic ban (and could be getting the bus to training).

No doubt Cole will say his faltering start is "just one of them things" but the fact is how you start can make a huge difference to your fortunes at a club.

It will take some time before Liverpool fans start getting on Cole's back. They tend to back their players even in the face of irrefutable evidence of decline (here's lookin' at you, Carra) and so they should - they are football supporters after all.

But the unrestrained jubilation that greeted the arrival of a Chelsea fringe player is just beginning to look a little misplaced.

Diego Forlan's inability to find the net for 26 games (admittedly, most were as a sub) torpedoed his Manchester United career.

Even when he finally found the net he could not play with the freedom and self-assurance that has since enabled him to become officially the best player in the World (Cup).

Goalkeeper Massimo Taibi produced a sequence of horrific howlers, culminating in a legendary fumble that allowed a tame Matt Le Tissier shot to squirrel underneath his body. And that was that.

Ferguson said in his autobiography that although he still rated Taibi as a keeper, the Le Tiss error convinced the United manager to ditch him. Taibi's confidence, he reasoned, would never be the same again, and he could not visit an away ground without being reminded of the blunder.

The point is, a bad start affects both you and your opponents. You take the field anxious, rather than exuding calm confidence. They look at you in the tunnel and have a little snigger at that open goal you put into orbit last weekend.

Take Andriy Shevchenko, who began at Chelsea with two goals in three games but then saw his aura of invincibility slip over the next 26 games, during which time he scored just four times.

No longer did opposing defenders awe the man who routinely tallied 25 a season for Milan and won the 2004 Ballon d'Or. They had empirical evidence that he was actually a bit rubbish.

Jonathan Woodgate's Real Madrid debut was one to savour, and came over a year after he signed for the club due to injuries.

Woody powered a remarkable diving header into his own net, got sent off for two bookable offences and that was it: his reputation as a loveable clown was secured and his career at Real effectively over.

Early Doors could go on, but it won't bother as it is approaching its word limit.

Looking on the positive side, Mario Balotelli's debut goal at Timisoara could be the making of him. Even though it was just a tap-in in a Europa League qualifier that he nearly missed.

The same for Javier Hernandez after that ridiculous Community Shield goal that went in off his face. It was a goal - never mind how.

Like a golfer who has won his first Major, Balotelli and Hernandez have got over the hump. They can now relax and play with freedom.

As for Cole? He now has it all to prove and immediately finds himself under pressure. It's not terminal to his hopes of success at Liverpool, but it certainly doesn't help.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Ian Holloway on embattled Blackpool ex-chairman Karl Oyston: "The day he leaves is the day I will have to consider my future, because it is all about our relationship. That is nailed down - as it was last week when everyone said I was leaving! We are like the Men in Black zapping the aliens together. Bosh. Zap. Part of my contract is linked to him. I'm totally confident if I lost 8-0 to Chelsea he would not have an itchy finger."

PEOPLE OF MERSEYSIDE, YOU MAY NOW PANIC: Peter Kenyon is fronting Kenny Huang's £400million Liverpool takeover bid, according to The Sun.

FOREIGN VIEW: Brazilian prodigy Neymar has snubbed a big-money move to Chelsea and signed a five-year contract extension with Santos.

The talented teenager turned down a multi-million pound offer from the Premier League champions to sign the five-year contract with Santos including £40,000-a-week wages and a £37m buy-out clause.

"The final decision is always the player's. I spoke to my dad and my family and we decided to stay. I'm happy, it's what I want," the 18-year-old said.

"I think (the decision) is going to help my game quite a lot because I'm happy. Money alone doesn't bring happiness."

COMING UP: Video previews of all the weekend's Premier League matches, plus a Manchester United selection debate. Videos available in the UK only. We're not being vindictive, it's a rights thing, innit?

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