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Cole: I'll fill in for injured Bellamy

PUBLISHED: 14:50 14 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:32 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG CARLTON Cole insists he can fill the void left by Craig Bellamy s latest setback after hitting his first pre-season goal for West Ham on Saturday. Cole was thrust into the starting line-up for Saturday s 1-1 draw against Villareal after

By JONATHAN CLEGG

CARLTON Cole insists he can fill the void left by Craig Bellamy's latest setback after hitting his first pre-season goal for West Ham on Saturday.

Cole was thrust into the starting line-up for Saturday's 1-1 draw against Villareal after Bellamy was ruled out for a month with a hamstring strain last week.

The former England Under-21 striker took little time to make his mark, side-footing home Matthew Etherington's low cross inside two minutes to open his pre-season account for the Hammers.

Cole now appears certain to start alongside Dean Ashton against Wigan on Saturday and the 25-year-old believes he has come into form at just the right time.

He said: "I hadn't actually got any goals until Saturday, so hopefully I've saved it until the start of the season and during the season.

"The manager hasn't said anything about who's going to start up front next week. We're just going with the flow.

"If you get called upon you've just got to go out there and do a professional job and that's what we'll do. We're professional players."

Cole has scored just nine times in 56 appearances since joining West Ham from Chelsea in July 2006 but the athletic forward won over the Upton Park crowd last season with a series of hard-working displays.

He believes his poor return last season, when he netted four league goals in 31 appearances, was due to long periods spent playing as a lone striker as the Hammers struggled to cope with a lengthy casualty list.

"Last season I got called upon to do a job up front alone a lot because we had so many injuries," he explained. "But I don't mind - as long as I'm playing, I'm happy."

Now the only goal Cole has in mind is building on last season's success and helping the club improve on a 10th place finish in the Premier League.

"As a team, we've got to improve on what we started last season," he said. "That's the main thing now.

"The ambition has always got to be to finish higher than 10th. We set ourselves a good base really. We weren't in the dogfight at the bottom and we've got to build on what we started and achieve more."

With Bobby Zamora sold to Fulham this season, Cole knows that there will be pressure on him and teenager Freddie Sears to weigh in with crucial goals.

But he is convinced that Sears and fellow academy graduate Zavon Hines, who both came on as substitutes against Villareal, can help the club climb the table this year.

"We've got some good youngsters here and they're impressing me," said Cole. "West Ham are renowned for producing good, talented youngsters and the academy is still producing some of the best talent you're going to see in the Premier League.

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