Few soccer players get congratulated by their queen for making the World Cup. But Joe Cole, the youngest member of the 23-man England squad named Thursday, capped his rapid rise with praise from Queen Elizabeth II.
The 20-year-old midfielder met the queen when she visited his east London club, West Ham, as part of her Golden Jubilee tour — just hours after his selection by England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The queen, not known as an avid soccer fan, congratulated Cole on his success and said her son Prince Andrew would be traveling to South Korea and Japan to watch some England games.
“It’s been a great day,” Cole, dressed in suit and tie, said after his chat with the queen and Prince Philip.
Eriksson said he knew Cole and young Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves would be anxious about Thursday’s announcement.
“I don’t know if Joe Cole slept well last night,” Eriksson said. “I think they deserve it, they’re good football players, they’ve been doing very well for their teams this season. When they got the chance to play for England, they always did it very well.”
Eriksson said Cole had “something special” despite his lack of experience.
“He hasn’t played so many games in the Premiership, but he has something,” Eriksson said. “He can change things on the pitch, if he’s coming on or starting the game. In a 23-man squad you have to take those players who are young, very talented.”
Cole has fluctuated wildly in his four England appearances and has yet to start an international game. But he promised to perform at his best at the tournament starting May 31. “I am obviously delighted to have been selected for the World Cup squad,” Cole said. “I have no doubts about my ability and I am sure that I can do a job for the team if selected to play. It will be great experience for me.
“I would like to acknowledge the help and advice given to me by (West Ham manager) Glenn Roeder and everyone at West Ham, and to family and friends for support.”
Cole made his England debut in the 2-1 loss to Italy in a friendly in March. He helped set up England’s goal, but then gave away the ball at the other end, allowing Italy to equalize with a stunning strike by Vincenzo Montella.
Last month, Cole silenced the critics with his ball skills as a second-half substitute in England’s 4-0 win over Paraguay.
The FA said his “sizzling individual skills” in those games, tipped the balance toward him.
“There can be little doubt that his talent is worthy of this stage,” the FA said. “He may see the left midfield spot as one which he can make his own but he could also be the perfect wildcard to sent on as a substitute to attack the tired legs of the opposition in the humid heat of Japan.”
Roeder, who helped guide Cole from the club’s youth training scheme to Premier League soccer when he was only 16 and to England Under 21 representation, said the player had faced unfair criticism.
“The criticism was over the top. He did some good things against the Italians as well but people looked at the negative instead of the positive,” said Roeder, who worked at West Ham for two years as a reserve team coach before becoming manager in June last year.
“In the big picture it is all part of the learning curve and Joe has shown his response in the way he played for us since then.