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Time For Tom Huddlestone To Leave Tottenham

Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone has never fulfilled his potential at the club and may have to move on to establish himself as a first team player again.

There’s a buzz about Spurs at the moment. Everyone is talking about Harry Redknapp’s team electrifying the Premier League. There’s even talk of a title challenge! After the first two games of the season, who would have thought that?

Brad Friedel has made the goalkeepers position his own by offering calm and confidence in place of Gomes panicky flappiness. King and Kaboul are forging a centre back partnership the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Mabbutt and Gough turned out for David Pleats exciting 86/87 team that went oh so close to winning everything. Kyle Walker is forging a reputation for himself and looks set for the right back berth at Spurs and maybe for England for many years to come. On the other side Benoit Assou-Ekotto continues to prove that not only is he an awesome left back but he might just be the coolest character in English football for a very long time. Up front Emmanuel Adebayor is providing a dominant presence who can hold the ball up and link play. Whilst all these players take their plaudits and deservedly so, it is the midfield that has really set all the tongues wagging.

Bale and Lennon are terrifying full backs as only they can, meanwhile inside them the trio of Parker, Modric and van der Vaart are setting new standards of excellence on a game by game basis. Parker is the most prolific tackler in the league, but he’s so much more than that, his drive and energy allied with a fine range of passing make him probably the best all round midfielder in the country right now. Luka Modric has put the summer transfer battle behind him, well and truly behind him and is now showing exactly how much he cares about playing for Spurs, even with the ‘chicken badge’ on his chest. He was sublime against Villa and ran the show. Van der Vaart meanwhile continues to ooze class as only a Dutchman can, he’s scored some vital and delightful goals this season and also provides excellent service for his team mates along with a ferocious work rate.

All of this must leave Tom Huddlestone wondering how on earth he’ll get back in the side when he recovers from his latest injury. Fact is right now, there doesn’t seem to be a place for him at all. Spurs football is all pace and high energy, balls zipping from one side of the pitch to the other and midfielders driving from the centre of the park to join attacks. THudd’s languid style just won’t fit with how the team are playing currently.

Of course the season is but a third of the way through and squad depth will surely be tested at some point. However even if one of the central midfielders picks up a knock there are surely others ahead of the big Nottingham born man. Sandro, the breakout star of last season has seen his minutes curtailed by first injury and then Parkers addition to the squad, but he must head the queue should Redknapp see the need for a more physical presence in midfield. For all Huddlestone’s size it’s always been felt that he doesn’t use it well enough.

Early in his career he seemed unwilling to get his foot in and as he’s developed when he does get physical he seems to get, well, thuggish, as evidenced by his Champions League elbow and a couple of other unsavoury moments in the last eighteen months. Jake Livermore now also seems  a better bet to play alongside the more creative Modric if our Brazilian wonder is not available, he’s not quite up to Sandro’s standards yet but has masses of drive and energy as well as endless enthusiasm and determination to make it at Spurs. Determination is another quality that Huddlestone has been accused of lacking over his time at The Lane, his talent has rarely been questioned, but his desire to make the most of it hasn’t always been evident.

So perhaps THudd could end up as understudy to Modric? Of course his range of passing and ability to split a defence are plain for all to see. Many have said he’s the best passer since the legendary Glenn Hoddle to grace the White Hart Lane turf and that is hard to argue with, but his slow and ponderous style is completely at odds with the way that Modric buzzes around, keeping the ball moving and the team ticking over. Even Niko Kranjcar offers more mobility than Huddlestone and must surely, when fit, be seen as first alternative to Luka.

There is another alternative to Modric, anyone who’s seen our Europa League campaign cannot have failed to miss the emergence of Tom Carroll. He may look about twelve years old but the Watford born youngster is growing with each appearance he makes. He is very much of the same style as Modric, a deep lying playmaker who always finds space and wants the ball and is ready to give it to a team mate and then make himself available again. It may be too soon to start thinking of him becoming a Premier League regular but if he were to play then unlike Huddlestone, he would slot straight into the team without Redknapp having to adapt or change style to accomodate him.

All of this must be very frustrating to watch for Huddlestone. It took him a while to get truly established at Spurs, it wasn’t until his key role in Redknapps team that qualified for the Champions League that the majority of Spurs fans truly accepted him and recognised what he could do. THudd was absolutely outstanding in 09/10, particularly the second half of the season when he formed an attack minded central midfield pairing with Modric. However last season injuries took their toll and Redknapp also learnt from the Champions League adventure that gung-ho was all well and good but no team succeeds at the top level without some defensive security in midfield. For all his skills, for all his 60 yard pinpoint passes, for all his thundering shots from 30 yards, Huddlestone just doesn’t offer enough mobility to fill Luka’s role nor enough defensive tougness and savvy to take over from Super Scotty Parker when needed.

What Huddlestone’s future holds is uncertain, but he must be questioning whether that future is at White Hart Lane. Harry Redknapp may well have ideas on how Big Tom can fit back into the squad and play a role at the club, but a move elsewhere may be the answer.  He’s already been linked with a switch to Liverpool, he and Charlie Adam could form the most immobile midfield ever conceived if that were to happen. Whilst it’s true that Damien Comolli not only loves a midfielder but is also a fan of Hudd, having signed him for Spurs from Derby, that move just doesn’t make sense really. Even so, it may well be that if THudd is to establish himself and push back into the England reckoning, he was close after the World Cup in 2010, then he may have to look to pastures new to do it.

Whilst it would be sad to see such a talented player move on, and although injuries have played a part, Huddlestone has never truly fulfilled all the potential he arrived at Spurs with.

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