Joe Cole is ready to fight for his place in the Liverpool first team after firing on his return to action for Rodolfo Borrell‘s U-21 side on Monday.
It took the 30-year-old — eligible to play as one of three over-age outfield players — a matter of minutes to make a mark against Fulham on his first outing since limping from the field at The Hawthorns during the Reds’ opening day defeat to West Brom.
And now Cole, satisfied with his hour-long run-out at the Academy, is desperate to force his way back into Brendan Rodgers‘ plans for the forthcoming senior fixtures.
“It was nice to get out there and play and I felt okay fitness-wise,” Cole told Liverpoolfc.com. “I really enjoy coming and playing football with the younger guys.
“I think the most important thing was just getting the minutes under my belt. It’s always nice to score, but I think the main thing for me was really to just get through the game and test myself to see how my fitness is and how my sharpness is.
“I was happy and it’s a case of onwards and upwards now and hopefully I can be available for the first team.
“Whether it’s here or at Anfield, a game of football is a game of football and I really enjoyed it.
“Football has always been about joy and about passion, for me. I love playing and I couldn’t be at a better club for that because Liverpool is based on passion.”
Manager Rodgers arrived at the club’s Kirkby-based Academy just in time to watch Cole cut inside from the left and curl the ball right-footed past the Fulham ‘keeper to give the U-21s an early lead.
“I think the manager will probably assess my fitness on Tuesday and Wednesday and we’ll go from there,” said Cole. “I’m keen to get going as soon as possible because reserve-team football is great, but I just need to get back in the first team.
“Obviously I’m not 100 percent fit because I haven’t played every game but I just need to get involved. I want to be out there and playing.”
The recent influx of young players into the Reds’ first-team squad means it could prove harder than ever for Cole to make an immediate return to action and subsequently nail-down a place in the starting XI.
However, he believes that such competition is a hallmark of any successful club and therefore is relishing the fight for places at Melwood.
“Of course it’s a good thing that there are so many people fighting for places,” said Cole. “That’s what all successful clubs have. The game has developed and it is now a squad game.
“The standards are so high that you need 22 top players — two in every position — and the young lads have all done exceptionally well. I think going forward that can only be a positive thing for Liverpool Football Club.”