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Joe hates my guts and refuses to see me .. but I'll still be cheering him to World Cup glory; EXCLUSIVE: HEARTACHE OF JOE COLE'S ESTRANGED DAD.

Byline: GINNY SANDRINGHAM

WHEN England football ace Joe Cole makes his World Cup debut next month his disowned dad will be watching with a mixture of pride and sadness.

Electrician Christopher Rooks walked out on his son when he was just a few months old. Since then the two have never met.

Christopher, 46, admitted: "He knows I'm his dad but he hates me.

"I'm so proud of Joe but he wants nothing to do with me.

"I would love to pay tribute to him but I don't want to make the situation worse than it is.

"The most important thing at the moment is that Joe concentrates on the World Cup and pours all his energies into that.

"Nothing should detract from what he is about to achieve and I will be cheering him all the way."

When West Ham midfielder Joe made his Premiership debut against Manchester United at the age of 17 it was his adoptive father George Cole who sat among the 55,000 fans.

George admits that Joe's dazzling skills are not passed on from him. "God knows where he gets it from," he said.

Christopher Rooks watched the debut in a bar trembling. "I was like jelly," he admits.

But it was the price he paid when he walked out on Joe and his mother, childhood sweetheart Susan Holloway.

Susan, now 40, met and married former market trader George who adopted Joe when he was just four years old.

Although Joe knew the truth about his natural father his family decided never to tell the rest of the world until after his debut.

Christopher showed the same sort of talent for the game when he was a young man, playing for youth teams and having trials at professional clubs.

Family and friends said he lived, ate and breathed football but in the end he was thought too "happy go lucky" to follow the dedicated path to full-time professional football.

It wasn't until Joe, now 20, had made his debut that they began to talk about his real dad.

By then Christopher had a family of his own and Joe decided he didn't want to meet him.

Now as Joe trains with the squad in Dubai, Christopher is unable to hide his regret.

He said: "I can't help thinking how I missed out on his childhood."

Christopher now has a second son Chris, with his wife Karen, who is only a few months younger than Joe. While Joe is showing off his skills in Japan next month, his half brother, who the player has never met, will watch the matches on a big screen at the family's pounds 250,000 home, Rooks Castle, in Wickford, Essex.

The house is just a few miles from where Joe lives with his mum and stepdad George in Romford.

Christopher, who is flying the England flag from a 10ft pole in the garden, said: "I've got my other kids to think of now, but no matter what has happened in the past, we will all be supporting the national team like every other family.

"With the injuries, there's a bigger possibility that Joe will play. It's an amazing achievement. I never really dreamt it would come to this. I realise now that he is one of the world's finest players."

He puts on a brave face but, according to his mother Joyce - who collects newspaper cuttings of her grandson's progress - the pain of leaving Joe has left Christopher brooding about his past and what might have been.

Joe's mercurial skills have earned him the title of "the new Gazza" or even according to some commentators a potential Pele. But it is his stepdad, George, who has taught him the level-headedness that should see him become a star of the World Cup.

The former market trader who moved into the mini-cab business was not blessed with a football mind.

He has admitted: "I've never kicked a ball. At first I didn't even realise what a talent Joe had. He had no coaching until he was 11."

George, who until recently drove Joe to training, said: "I've often asked him if he wants to meet his dad, but he's always said no."

For Joe's mother Susan there is no reason to dwell on the past or what might have been.

She said: "As far as Joe is concerned, George is his dad.

"George's surname is Cole and so is Joe's. That's all there is to it."

CAPTION(S):

FAN: Half brother Chris, left, will watch Joe's games at home with flag outside; DAD: Christopher left Joe at early age
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 18, 2002
Words:768
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