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All to Play For: Joe Cole and Alan Shearer discuss how to get the best out of England’s midfield  

| 17.11.2020

As they join Tom Davis for the launch of Coral and JOE Media’s All to Play For podcast

All to Play For – our new weekly football podcast in collaboration with JOE Media – launched last week with England legend Alan Shearer joining hosts actor and comedian Tom Davis and ex-West Ham, Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole.

Each week, the hosts will be joined by an ex-footballer or celebrity to fan to discuss all the big talking points in the world of football, with plenty of must hear anecdotes, opinions and analysis.

The podcast can be found on all major platforms, including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music, with new episodes arriving every Thursday.

In the opening show, Shearer joined the hosts to discuss how England can fit new star Jack Grealish into their system ahead of the European Championships next summer.

Cole, speaking about his experience of where England fell short at major tournaments that he played in, feels England need to include the likes of Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden in their side to succeed.

Our problem has always been keeping the ball – now we have the players who can do it

“The academy system in England has changed now to what it was back then and these types of players are now so much more comfortable on the ball. Having players who can receive a pass in tight spaces and play through the lines makes such a difference and the likes of Grealish, Mount and Foden all need to be involved,” said Joe Cole.

“If you could put Jack Grealish as he’s playing at the moment onto the pitch in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia, he’d of drove us up the pitch, won fouls and kept possession and potentially win us the game. Our problem has always been keeping the ball in the big moments and now we have the players who are technically good enough to be able to do that,” added Cole.

The lads discussed Coral’s odds on players starting England’s first game next summer against Croatia, with Joe Cole talking up Grealish’s chances and even saying he could be in with a shout of winning Player of the Year.

“I think Grealish is a great bet the way he is performing. If he carries on the way he is playing he could win PFA Player of the Year this season and then how hard would it be to leave him out? He is creating goals, he’s scoring goals, he’s a monster when he picks up the ball and drives forward with it,” said Cole.

Shearer agreed, saying Grealish has had “an unbelievable season” and that he’s a player that he loves watching.

“Southgate just needs to find the balance of fitting these technically gifted players in and that is the issue that we’ve got at the moment. We need to find a system to fit at least one, ideally two of those type of player into the side as they are exceptional talents,” said Shearer.

The three also shared their memories of Euro 1996, hosted in England, with next summer’s tournament scheduled to have matches at Wembley – while Joe Cole relived a trip to the golf course with Shearer, Tony Adams and Paul Ince as a 17-year-old.

Shearer had high praise for then England boss Terry Venables, who told Shearer he would start the first game of the tournament even before the pre-tournament tour and friendly matches. Shearer ended up the top scorer at the Euros with five goals.

“I hadn’t scored for England in nearly two years leading up the tournament so there was a little bit of pressure there. Terry Venables said to me before the friendly games in the lead up to the Euros that whatever happened I would be starting the first game and I just found it unbelievable that the manager would show so much faith in me,” said Alan Shearer

Cole shared his fond memories as a teenage fan at the tournament, including an argument with his parents over a trip to Disneyland that clashed with England’s quarter-final against Spain.

“I remember for my 14th birthday, my Mum and Dad got me tickets to all three of the group games. My parents had then booked for us to go to Disneyland before the quarter-finals, which would be a dream for most kids but I didn’t want to go!

I was right behind the goal for Seaman’s penalty save and then Gazza going up the other end and scoring that goal against Scotland. It was absolutely unbelievable,” Cole said.

A few years later, in 1999, Cole was part of his first England training session alongside Alan Shearer and told an amusing anecdote about a trip the squad took to the golf course.

“I’d never even held a golf club but thought it looked simple enough – after about four air shots I finally shanked one into the trees!”

“One of the first times I trained with the England squad, Alan, Tony Adams and Paul Ince asked me if I played golf. I’d never even held a golf club before but I thought it looked simple enough and wanted to get involved.

It turned up at the first tee and thought it looked a bit serious. I lined up my ball and took an air shot. After about four air shots, I finally hit the ball and shanked it into the trees. I turned around and they were cracking up laughing at me. After the second hole, I just ended up caddying for them! It was a great experience looking back with lads that were my heroes growing up,” Cole reminisced.

You can subscribe to All to Play For on all major platforms, including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music – and we’ll let you know as each new episode arrives every Thursday.



Michael Johnson

From the sunny north-east of England to the slightly sunnier Spain, Michael is a die-hard football fan and an experienced writer who loves to put his passion for the game on the page.