Lost in Lille where Cole has found a home
Hello good people. There was a distinct lack of bloggage last week, which I know caused havoc in some parts of the country (well, one person asked me where it was). I'll let you know what's happening this week on Football Focus in a bit but I wanted to tell you about last week's trip to Lille to see Joe Cole.
It was a while in the planning but eventually we settled on a date and booked our tickets on the Eurostar. Three of us made the trip across the Channel - I was asking the questions, Graham was producer-in-chief and West Ham fan Stu was our cameraman.
Stu was the only one clever enough to check the weather in France before we left.
Graham and I weren't quite in Bermuda shorts but I think we both expected it to be a little warmer than the freeze-your-face-off conditions that met us upon arrival. Graham and I had 20 minutes at Lille station waiting for Stu to arrive. We spent that time cuddling a hot beverage and standing half a centimetre away from the only heater on the platform.
No more Eurostar for Joe Cole, who's now based permanently in France. Photo: Getty
Stu arrived - laden with equipment - and we headed for the taxi rank. It was in the queue that we discovered that none of us paid enough attention during GCSE French. My grasp doesn't really extend beyond, "Avez-vous une pamplemousse?" but asking, "Do you have a grapefruit?" will only get you so far.
We delegated language detail to Graham because he wanted to play with the translator on his phone. It may have seemed like a brilliant plan but there is something strangely soul-destroying about watching an Englishman telling an exclusively French-speaking taxi driver to, "Hold on a minute guv" while he looks for the word stadium on his new toy.
The highlight of the dialogue was the moment that Graham, struggling to explain to the driver that we wanted to go to the current Lille stadium rather than the one being built, asked him to, "Bear with it". Despite speaking no English, the driver seemed aware that a bear was a large furry animal that occasionally attacked humans and a mild fear crossed his face.
To show you the extent of our linguistic limitations, when I ordered a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) later in the day at a cafe, I was pilloried for hiding my fluent French and leaving Graham to struggle through "Beargate" alone.
Despite our issues - which I do confess to slightly exaggerating - we arrived at the correct stadium, picked up a few shots of the picturesque town centre and eventually made our way to the training ground in good time.
Whenever you go to a foreign country to interview a player, you tend to get a lot more freedom than you would here. The press officer asked us what we wanted to do and then positioned us in the middle of a bright red corridor to wait for Mr Cole. There was a red leather sofa next to a trophy cabinet which was filled with paraphernalia from the Intertoto Cup.
The former Chelsea and West Ham midfielder - on loan in France from Liverpool - turned up after about 25 minutes and suggested we relocate to the players' canteen because he was "Hank" (Marvin = starvin'). We might have struggled to get to grips with the local lingo but we all knew the reference to the former Shadows lead guitarist meant it was time for lunch.
When Cole went out on loan from Anfield there were easier options available but he chose the European route. Initially he was commuting across the Channel but he is now facing the experience alongside his wife and young daughter. The football is going well and the club, fellow players and fans seem to have genuinely embraced the lad from Camden Town.
Everyone we bumped into on our way to the canteen, and the staff inside, seemed happy to have him around the place and went out of their way to help him master the nuances of working in a foreign land.
If you missed the interview at the time you can watch the full thing here...
There seems to be two ways of looking at Joe Cole. Is he the Glenn Hoddle- esque genius who will never fit perfectly into English football? Or the outrageously talented lad who failed to fulfil his potential? There are some things we can say for sure: Liverpool was a big mistake for him, he is still desperate to play again in the Premier League and he feels unfairly shut out on a national level.
Capello doesn't think Cole answers any of the questions he currently has about England. If Harry Redknapp takes over after Euro 2012 then maybe the midfielder's fortunes will change but even Cole would admit that, with a fully fit Wilshere, Downing, Gerrard, Lampard, Young, Parker, Walcott and Milner, he would need to return to the peak of his powers to get back in favour.
We've got another big name interview for you this week. Manchester United defender Phil Jones will talk exclusively about life in the spotlight, being so highly rated, his favourite position, his future and his bizarre pre-match ritual. We have also brought Alan Shearer and Michael Owen together, Charlton manager Chris Powell talks to Mark Bright and world 5,000m champion Mo Farah is the latest man to take on Mark Lawrenson in Premier League predictions.
On top of that, we will be joined in the studio by two men at the heart of a title-winning side in the early 1990s... Gary McAllister and current Wales boss Gary Speed. If you have any questions for those two, comments about Joe Cole or the show in general then let me know below. You can also find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/danwalkerbbc