On the face of it, all should be well on the terraces at Indonesian club Persib Bundang.
The team is unbeaten and sits in second in the standings after six games of the season.
Yet Persib’s main fan group, the Bobotoh, have not been impressed with the team’s performances and the coach Djadjang Nurdjaman has been on the defensive at times trying to explain why there is a lack of fluency.
If only he had a striker who was banging in the goals. Peter Odemwingie is on fire in Indonesia and his goalscoring exploits are in stark contrast to that of former England striker Carlton Cole.
Odemwingie has scored four goals in five starts for Madura United and seems to be loving life in East Java while over on the western side of this beautiful island, Cole is having a hard time at Persib Bandung and has yet to find the target. To be honest, he has yet to even come close to finding the target.
The little luck that Cole has had so far comes in the shape of Michael Essien. The former Chelsea and Real Madrid star is at Persib too and takes plenty of attention.
— PERSIB (@persib) May 18, 2017
Cole started his first game for the Blues on May 7 against Persipura. The reason, according to team manager Umuh Muchtar, was not that Cole was ready to do so (indeed, the coach had said a week earlier that both Cole and fellow import Michael Essien were struggling to adapt to the climate and finding it hard to sleep). Muchtar said fans were asking where Cole was and why wasn’t he playing. The management’s plan was to show the supporters the reason why Cole was not playing… by playing him.
The logic was about as effective as the decision. The striker barely featured and was withdrawn at the break, so presumably the manager’s point was proven. Yet, once again, it is not like the 33 year-old missed chance after chance, wasted opportunities galore. The service is just not there. Cole needs balls into the box, from wide positions whenever possible, and this is just not the way that Persib play, or have been playing this season so far.
If Cole was a midfielder or defender then it would be different but strikers have no place to hide. He has to start scoring but when he has played just 105 minutes on the pitch this season and received little assistance from his team-mates and coach, it is harsh to be too critical. So far at least, he is just not suited to the way the team plays.
— Raphael Maitimo (@raphaelmaitimo) May 2, 2017
But that will largely go unreported and if he doesn’t score soon, then an end to his Asian adventure is likely.
Everyone knows that in Southeast Asia, foreign players are expected to perform as soon as they arrive. There is no honeymoon period, no time given to adapt. Results are expected quickly and if they are not forthcoming, the star will be heading back home with the pieces of a cancelled contract in his pocket. Expectations and demands are high, especially at Persib.
It is to be hoped that Cole gets a chance to start on Saturday with a winnable home game against Borneo and that he also gets chances to score.
Cole may not be giving up without a fight. On social media on Thursday, he posted a picture of himself in the Persib line-up with the words: “There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, prayers, and a clean heart there are no limits.”
Odemwingie is different. The former Nigerian international is not waiting in vain in the penalty area for a cross that never comes but is given licence to roam. Two of his goals have come from running from deep before unleashing long-distance shots. One was spectacular but the other bounced over a goalkeeper who had got it all wrong. When you are involved in the action then things can happen.
— Peter Odemwingie (@OdemwingieP) May 8, 2017
The ex-West Bromich Albion and Stoke City star gets plenty of the ball and was on the end of a fine free-kick to head home his fourth of the season earlier this week. The club’s Brazilian coach Gomes De Oliveira was happy with the attacker getting into the right positions but stressed that his team had multiple goal threats. Odemwingie has settled quickly, is dropping deep to pick up the ball and running into dangerous areas and when he does not have the ball, his team-mates are looking for him.
Cole is waiting in the area for balls that rarely come. He is a different kind of attacker to Odemwingie and needs service.
Playing him just to show how badly things are going does not seem to be a professional thing to do. Cole should start if he is ready to do so. And if does, Persib should try, at least a little, to utilise the abilities of their high-profile former England striker. Cole needs to get a chance and to get some chances.