Cole sets sights on Europe

The on-loan Chelsea striker has scored just twice for Villa this season and it is seven months since his last goal. His season was thought to be over after picking up a knee injury while on duty for the England Under-21 side which doctors thought could require surgery but rest has provided the remedy and now Cole has returned to Villa determined to show he can deliver the goods in the top flight.

The 20-year-old returned to the fray as a second-half substitute in Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Birmingham City and said he is determined to prove himself in the final nine matches. “I want to prove to myself that I can play at this level and I want to show the critics that they are wrong,” Cole said. “Now I have to go out and do the business and I want the criticisms to turn into praise. Everyone knows what I am capable of. I'm getting some stick but I'll take it on the chin.”

Usually these claims produce more eye-rolling than the average WI meeting, but Cole seems genuine in what he says. “The knee injury was a bit of a nightmare and I want my fitness levels to get back up as soon as possible because I feel that I've got some unfinished business at Aston Villa. I need some more goals and I want to get back into the side as soon as possible.

“If everyone is on top of their game then we could still make it into Europe. There is still a lot to play for. Depending on where teams finish in various competitions, seventh or eighth might be enough.”