New boy Cole goes on charm offensive

 

Joe Cole completed his €9.4 million transfer to Chelsea last night and learned his first taste of Champions League football could be in Slovakia after Chelsea discovered their opponents in the third qualifying round would be MSK Zilina.

The midfielder wasted no time in demonstrating that his public relations instincts are as sharp as his football skills. No sooner had the 21-year-old signed from West Ham than he announced he used to travel to see games at Stamford Bridge and admired Dennis Wise and Kerry Dixon.

"I used to come to Chelsea to watch," he told Chelsea TV. "I used to sit in The Shed a lot. I used to love watching good players. I used to love watching Dennis Wise and before that Kerry Dixon."

Cole is bound to be warmly welcomed by the current Shed end spectators and has already drawn extensive praise from his new team-mates.

"I think Joe Cole will be very exciting for us," said John Terry. "He will have the fans on their feet and will definitely warrant the fans paying their money. It's great to see the manager building around young players and it's good to see another English lad coming in."

The Argentinian Juan Sebastian Veron is expected to complete his move to Stamford Bridge today after Manchester United announced they had accepted a €21.3 million offer. That entails a €17.7 million down payment with the rest dependent on Chelsea's success over the next four seasons.

Claudio Ranieri still hopes to sign a defensive midfielder and a striker, and the activity has brought excitement and confidence to Chelsea's squad. They have their sights set on the title. "We now believe we have a great chance," said Terry. "The manager has made some great signings and we have heard there are going to be a couple more. We have a lot more strength in depth for the European games coming up."

Chelsea will face MSK Zilina over two legs for a place in the first group stage of the Champions League after the Slovakian champions overcame Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The first leg is in Slovakia on Wednesday of next week.

Chelsea's players are aware not only that expectation levels have been raised significantly but that plenty of people would be delighted to see them fail this season. Frank Lampard accepts there will be "jealousy" and said it would be "fair enough" for the team to face criticism if they fail to perform.

"The pressure is on but we will put pressure on ourselves," he said. "The fans are expecting us to do good things and we should be up there fighting to win the league. If we miss out, just, it won't be a failure. But our aim is to win the league."

Inevitably there will be losers amid the summer rebuilding and Boudewijn Zenden looks to be a major casualty after he lost his number 11 shirt to Damien Duff and was awarded number 24 in the new squad list, while Winston Bogarde was denied a squad number altogether.

Guardian Service