x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fernando Torres just needs a lucky break to end his goal drought

I can sympathise with Fernando Torres' goal drought, which is over 1,000 minutes. He's Britain's most expensive player and people expect goals galore. But one strike will open the floodgates and he'll forget all about his struggles.

Fernando Torres once again failed to score for Chelsea, in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Swansea City.
Fernando Torres once again failed to score for Chelsea, in Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Swansea City.

I don't enjoy watching Fernando Torres struggling for goals and snatching at chances because I know how it feels.

Strikers are expected to score goals. When you don't, it is a problem, no matter how well you've played or how much effort you've put in.

I look back at my career with great satisfaction. I am proud that I am second in the all-time Premier League top scorer chart with 187 goals, even more so because I didn't take free kicks and very rarely took penalties, but I had some very rough moments. Every striker has them.

The most difficult period in my career was in 1995/96 when I was at Manchester United.

It got so bad that when I woke up early one morning because my boy was ill, I looked outside to see that someone had put a "For Sale" sign outside our house. The things that faceless people will do.

Another time, a little kid approached me when I was taking my boy to nursery and said: "My dad says you're a spooner." I didn't know what spooner meant, but I knew what it implied and it wasn't positive.

The newspapers had it in for me - more so because I was the most expensive player in English football, a tag which now belongs to Torres.

They expected goals, goals, goals and when it didn't happen I was hammered for it.

Later on, the same journalists who had criticised me tried to pat me on the back. I never stopped reading the newspapers because I wanted to see who was slating me. I remembered everything.

I felt I had the support of most, but not all, United fans. Football fans are fickle and two-faced - the same person who comes up and hugs you when you score is the same bloke who berates you when you miss a chance. You have to ignore all, focus and believe in yourself.

Of course, I was frustrated because I wasn't scoring, just as I am sure Torres is deeply frustrated.

He has now gone more than 1,000 minutes since his last goal but I have stuck up for him before and I will stick up for him again.

He has suffered because of the way that Chelsea play, which is not to his strengths like Liverpool did. At Liverpool chances were created for him. At Chelsea he is feeding on scraps.

It helped that I had the support of the other players and I think Torres has the support of the Chelsea squad and the fans.

It helped that I had the support of the manager, too. Sir Alex Ferguson used to have a word with me in private and his message was always the same: ignore the criticism, keep doing what you're doing and you'll be fine.

You know what? He was right. A couple of goals and your problems melt away, although I only finished third top scorer at United that season behind Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes, despite starting more games than both: 11 goals from 34 league appearances was not me at my prolific best.

It is even worse for Torres, who has just two league goals so far this season.

It wasn't like my confidence was shattered or I was out of shape, yet you start to doubt yourself. You wonder why you aren't scoring as many goals, despite doing the same things and having more chances because you are in a better team.

It wasn't like I was training badly either, nor was I fazed by the task of being a centre forward at Manchester United like some previous strikers at Old Trafford. They wilted under pressure, but I just needed to get lucky and I did.

It is exactly the same for Torres. You can see that he is trying hard, but it's just not happening for him.

He is snatching at shots and his confidence is down - and confidence has a lot to do with it - but he is not hiding, didn't decide his huge transfer fee and he has not suddenly become a bad player.

I'd like to think that I had the mental resolve to overcome my problems and I think Torres will, too.

He's not a difficult character and people speak well of him in football. He has also undergone a change of manager which is never easy. I'm glad his new manager has played him for 90 minutes in recent matches because it doesn't help to be hauled off after 70 minutes.

There is one difference between my situation and that of Torres. We won the league and cup double at the end of my "difficult" season.

That is not something Chelsea are going to do this season, no matter how many goals Fernando Torres does or doesn't score.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

sports@thenational.ae