Carlton Cole last night moved to assure Aston Villa fans that there is no rift between him and the club's manager David O'Leary.

Earlier this week the England Under 21 striker, who has spent the season on loan from Chelsea, was widely reported to be unhappy at the level of support he has been given by the Irishman in this most difficult of seasons.

In the eight months he has been at Villa Park, Cole has failed to find the form that tempted O'Leary to hire him, scoring just three times in 28 appearances including a barren spell that started last August and ended just last week - 22 games later.

That led to speculation that he was unsettled spending so much time away from his London home and he was reported as being critical of O'Leary for failing to reassure him that he could perform in the Premiership.

But yesterday, speaking in a specially arranged interview, the 21-year-old was the embodiment of contrition and claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.

"I was misinterpreted I did not mean it in that way," he said. "I didn't see it in the paper I just got called into the office by the manager who asked me what it was about. I read through it and some of the words were totally twisted about and not what I meant."

Like politicians, footballers are often brought back down to earth when they see their words in print. There is little doubt too that O'Leary would have been incensed by Cole's words and what is equally certain is that the Villa manager would have asked him to reflect on his comments.

Cole referred specifically to a quote in which he said he had been treated like a pawn. "I didn't mean I was being used as a pawn, I meant footballers are used as pawns on the pitch to play in different positions." That said, all of his 18 Premiership starts this season have been as a striker.

He added that he was so upset that it affected him for part of Wednesday's 0-0 draw with his former club Charlton Athletic

"We obviously had a match the next day, I saw the manager, he was disappointed with me and I was embarrassed to be honest.

"It was not a nice way to prepare for a game and that preyed on my mind for the first 15-20 minutes, the crowd was on my back, so it didn't help me."

Cole was also at pains to express his admiration for O'Leary and went as far as commending the former Leeds manager's manmanagement skills.

"I said you have got different types of managers," he continued. "Some show you support in different ways and don't pat you on the back all the time. I had that when I was younger, now I'm older I don't need it.

"David O'Leary has been very good to me. My relationship with David is like all the other players'. I have got a lot of respect for him and he shows respect for me.

"He supports me if I have not had the best of halves he will support me as a manager.

That's what you need."

Cole denied that he had been put up by the club to make conciliatory noises. "This is something I wanted to do, to put the record straight, to tell everybody that there are no problems here and that I have no problems with the manager.

"All the staff around have helped me, I am a bit embarrassed that I have to come out and do this. It is one of those things that you get in football. You get misinterpreted a lot."

Cole was anxious to build bridges with the Villa supporters, admitting that he had not shown them his best - but not because of a lack of effort.

"Sometimes my performances have not been up to scratch and I am the first to admit that.

"Whenever I play I try to give 100 per cent to Villa. Obviously some things have not gone to plan but I always give what I have got, even if I am tired and have got nothing else in the engine."

For his part O'Leary was far from impressed and confirmed that Cole was upset about the incident.

"He knows he has had an indifferent time here but he does know that he has all the one-on-one help he needs from all the staff at the club. We have helped him. One of my strengths is being a players' man and creating a spirit."

"If he is not doing things right then I will tell him for his own good and his education. The one thing about Carlton is that he is not a sulker."

He went on to stress that Cole was still one of his targets when the transfer window opens again in the summer.

Chelsea currently hold Cole's registration but the player wants his future to be sorted out as soon as possible.

"If Villa and Chelsea were to reach an agreement, of course I would happily come back to Villa," said the player.

"I just want a home, to settle down and play and enjoy my football. In the past two seasons I have not had that, I feel that I need a base to build on my career.

"Hopefully in the summer this will all be settled and, if that club is Aston Villa and that manager is David O'Leary, I am perfectly happy with that situation."