Soccer: Cohen delights in his Premier League prowess

Soccer Cohen delights i

Tamir Cohen soccer 248 88 (photo credit: )
Tamir Cohen soccer 248 88
(photo credit: )
Many analysts were quick to doubt Tamir Cohen's chances of success when he left Maccabi Netanya to join Bolton Wanderers in December of 2007. But, after a slow start to his English Premier League career, the 25-year-old Israel international has suddenly captured the attention of Bolton fans by scoring three goals in his first five league games this season, making him the club's joint top scorer Cohen, in Israel this week for the national team's upcoming World Cup qualifer against Moldova, said he has been as surprised as anyone with his new scoring prowess. "You can put it down to luck or to my position in the field, but as long as the ball is in the back of the net it really doesn't matter," he told The Jerusalem Post. "I don't remember ever scoring three goals in an entire season, and now I have already got three in five matches. It's an excellent statistic and I hope I can build on it." It has not been an easy time for Cohen since signing a three-and-a-half year deal with the team from the north of England. Although he made 10 Premier League appearances in the second half of the 2007/08 season, Cohen started only three times and was an early substitute in each of those matches. A tear in his left leg quadriceps muscle wrecked last season, with the midfielder only making his first league appearance in April, and playing in just four league matches overall. Cohen also started this season on the bench, but everything would change on August 29. He was given a place in Gary Megson's starting line-up against Liverpool, and made the most of it, scoring in the 47th minute of Bolton's 3-2 loss to the title contender. Cohen became a permanent fixture in the first 11 in the team's four Premier League matches since Liverpool, scoring twice and helping Bolton claim two wins and two draws in those encounters. Finally, Cohen is looking like a legitimate Premier League player, but he has no intention of resting on his laurels. "In the Premier League it makes no difference what you did the previous week. You have to prove yourself every day. I need to continue working hard in the hope of remaining in the starting line-up," Cohen said. "Last season I was out injured for six months and after coming back at the end of March I only made four league appearances. However, I had a good preseason this year and worked very hard and I'm happy the manager has given me the chance to prove it on the field." Cohen feels that last season's frustrating campaign has only made him a better player. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," he said. "After a difficult and exhausting season I entered this campaign with no expectations. I only hoped to do my job and make sure I would be ready when I got a chance." Tamir, the son Avi Cohen, who won a championship with Liverpool in the 1979/80 season, has no doubt that training at a Premier League club has transformed him as a player. "I've improved in every aspect since I joined Bolton," he explained. "My fitness, technique and understanding of the game have all improved. When you train at the highest level you improve your play as well as the team's play. I worked hard in Israel, but in England I have to give much more of myself." Cohen lives in Manchester and feels he has settled very well in England, thanks to some help from an Israel teammate who lives nearby. "I have a very good relationship with Yossi Benayoun. He lives 40 minutes away from me and every chance my wife and I get we go to visit Yossi and his family," Cohen said of the Liverpool midfielder. Cohen is expected to start for Israel against Moldova at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Saturday, and despite the team no longer having its fate in its own hands, he remains hopeful it can still reach a first World Cup in 40 years. "I believe we can do it. I'm an optimistic man, and as long as it's not officially over I will not give up," he said. "I will try to communicate this to my teammates. As long as we have a chance we need to give our all in the final two qualifiers."