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If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar

Huddlestone did alright last night. We all know he's not on top form, nowhere near it. But then would you be if you spent a season sidelined? We also know he's hardly the most aggressive player which means the midfield battle can sometimes pass him by. Maribor got in our faces, hassled and pressured, Hudd tried to make things happen but he had little to aim for. Don't want to be seen as scapegoating and my comments in the after match musings was a reference to that one single incident when he casually watched a player float past him. If you were stuck on social media at the time, you'd understand the dart board mentality. Let's remember, he almost went out on loan (to regain fitness elsewhere).

Once he's fit, we'll move onwards with that never shifting conundrum as to whether a player of his style can settle and dominate in the fast paced modern game that expects offensive players to partake in box to box action. Hudd next to Sandro with perhaps Dembele pushed into a more offensive position? That won't work as Dembele is not a marauding attacking midfielder, he's one that runs from deeper positions and gets his boots dirty with his beastly work ethic. Hudd isn't a Sandro or a Parker. If you want to compare him to player-makers of old, he's also not a Modric who would recycle possession magnificently, working the ball forward, passing and moving and then looking to unlock the defence with an acute touch. That latter one is something Tommy can do. A smart piece of jigsaw he is but will he ever fit into our puzzle?

All this conjecture reminds me of something I wrote back in March, 2009. We didn't have the answers back then either.


From March, 2009.


Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part III


Incredible or just plain ordinary?

The supervolcano under the Yellowstone Park has been fairly consistent, erupting on schedule every 600,000 years or so. Considering the caldera is the size of the park itself, when it’s erupted in the past, to say that it bestowed apocalyptic disaster upon Gods green earth is putting it mildly. It's been 640,000 years since the last time it coughed up lava, so we are due another one pretty soon if you go on its timetable from the past three million years. Although geologists don't actually know with any certainty if it will happen again because apparently the molten below is cooling off and the reoccurring eruptions might have reached the end of their schedule. If so, it might be a million years or more before Mother Nature wakes it up. It might never erupt again.

Tom Huddlestone is a supervolcano.

He's big, doesn't move much but when he does he melts the oppositions defence with devastating consequences. But it doesn't happen often. You might be lucky to witness this marvel once every 10 games or so. When the next one is due, I couldn't say.

Actually, scrap this particular analogy. I've no idea where it's going, and I'd rather limit the amount of Partridge-isms I'm guilty of from one week to the next. So let's try this again.

Tom Huddlestone is a fat Glenn Hoddle.


Tom Huddlestone is like a lighthouse. Stationary, but manages to light up all before him.

No, no.

Tom Huddlestone is our Dr Manhattan. Big and powerful, but understated and misunderstood.

No, no, no!

Ok. Analogies scrapped. Stick to facts.

Tom Huddlestone is not the most mobile of players.
Tom Huddlestone is a very decent passer of the ball.
Tom Huddlestone has a cracking shot.
Tom Huddlestone is technically good.
Tom Huddlestone is versatile.

But is Tommy too slow, cumbersome and defensively a liability? Or is that an unfair description for the player, where his strengths are of a more offensive nature? If you stick him in the middle of the park and the Spurs midfield are under pressure, can he step up and get stuck in, much like the maligned Jenas is capable of doing (when he's on song) by running up and down the pitch and hassling opposition players?

It's the job of Palacios or Zokora (shudder) to bite the ankles of the opposing players and break down their attack or reclaim possession. But that doesn't mean other players shouldn't pull their weight (ouch). Lennon is superb at times, in nicking the ball back for us. It's not so much a case of getting stuck in though, is it? He's played centre-back in the past and he's got involved turning defence into attack, with a touch here and a 30 yard pass there. You can defend brilliantly by sending the ball across one side of the pitch to the other with the outside of the foot, releasing your winger or forward and giving the defence time to re-organise.

But what happens before the ball is back in our possession and we are on the backfoot? And there are questions around consistency. There is an argument that Tom does put in a shift, it's just that compared to others, it doesn't resemble one.

The problem with Tom is that he is far less dynamic than many players of similar ilk (creative/playmaking midfielders). Which means he is far weaker in less offensive areas than any other midfielder we have. Carrick could defend well, wasn't exactly fast, but was mobile. Pace, or more so mobility, is important. He doesn't have any. Or more to the point, to quote about a thousand websites, he turns slower than the QE2.

Tom is quite similar to Jermaine Jenas in the way of potential. Both highly rated as youngsters, both possessing qualities that are admirable. But are both over-hyped? Or do they excel in some areas, but not enough in others to be considered complete?

Tom is a regular for the U-21’s and performs well, chipping in with a goal every now and again. But he’s not a regular for Spurs. But does chip in with plenty of assists and a few goals when he does turn out in Lilywhite. Why? Just because he can deliver clever balls and Hoddlesque passes, does this warrant an inclusion in our starting line-up? And if it does, what would it mean to the structure and balance of the team? Well, for starters, the team would have to be built around him. Or at least compensate for his deficiencies. So Palacios responsibility would be to clear the area allowing Tom to play Quarterback.

Now, this might work if, let’s say, Tom was as talented as Hoddle. To make a player the main creative outlet of the team he has to be something a bit special, and I’m not sure he’s that good, potentially or otherwise. Comparing anyone to Hoddle is blatantly unfair, so to re-word the above, I'd say that to build the team around one player they have to be, unquestionable, class - if not 'world class'.

Not to say I would not like to see him given a chance. But it’s asking a little too much for someone like Tom to 'carry the team'. It’s a bit like asking us to build the team around Bent by playing football like Charlton Athletic did in the days they resided in the Premiership - just because we all know he can score goals when on the break. Bent has a knack of doing so, but doesn’t offer enough to slot into a variety of forward roles which is required depending on the opposition. He’s a bit one dimensional. But what of Huddlestone? (not one dimensional, I'd go with a beefy 3D figure, tbh).

Even little Modric (did take his time to adjust which is understandable) gets involved with some of the dirty work – but he’s no defensive midfielder. So unless Huddlestone actually has an overwhelming negative influence on the team, there is no reason why he can’t play centre-midfield in a role that takes full advantage of his vision and skills.

Yes? Or no?

It’s a conundrum this one for the simple fact that he doesn’t play often enough. Let’s say Jermaine Jenas did not exist (I’ll give you a moment to climb down off your desk and pull your pants up and compose yourself........). Huddlestone would possibly get a more sustained opportunity to impress. The more games, the bigger the confidence, the better the communication on the pitch is with team mates. Coming off the bench, he’ll always be a decent impact player simply because of his sharp passing. But from his personal perspective, he’d want more than that. I want more than that. We all do.

Imagine if you will (I'm in fantasy mode today), Tom Huddlestone in Claret and Blue. Easy now. It's just a fantasy. He’d probably play every single week. That’s just an opinion, and West Ham fans might accuse me of over-rating him and that he’d never get into their team. Maybe. Possibly. But I guess that’s the point. He’s good enough, but good enough for whom? He is definitely good enough for someone. At some point in the next year or two, he'll need to be far more involved otherwise his progression will stagnate. Unless of course, what you see is what you get. Maybe there is no improvement coming. So, would you argue that his passing is that good, we can't afford to lose him? Or that the only thing he has is his passing ability and it isn't enough to claim a centre-midfield pairing - arguably one of the most important positions in the team.

Tactically, a manager will want his strongest 11 starting every week. Let’s say that includes Palacios and Jenas in the centre. If Jenas was unavailable, would Huddlestone slot in and give us the same type of thing, or more to the point, would he give us something that amounts to the same positive for the flow of the side?

Much like Jenas, he is good at some things, and not so good at others. Much like, well, most players. The trick is to maximise his abilities, getting the best out of him which will benefit the team. Harry has managed to do this with Lennon, a player who had an outstanding season, followed by a low-key one, and his now back to the type of form his potential has been screaming out for.

So how do we maximise Tommy boy?

Huddlestone - the quarterback? Sat in the middle laying off balls to both wings or dinking them forwards, with Wilson in the role of fullback, protecting him. Sounds immense on paper. And we've seen it in patches. I remember, when he first really started to push for a place at Spurs I considered him and Cesc Fabregas as the brightest midfield talents in the UK. Compare the two now. Ok, so Fabregas is a horrible arrogant piece of classless muck, but his ability as a footballer is unquestionable. But sadly the difference is fairly astronomical. The mucks influence is superior as is his general mobility. But one plays every week (when fit) the other is not first choice and excels (much like Jenas) against lesser opposition. But has done epically against the bigger teams too. Just not as often as, let's say, the scum that is Cesc.

Our midfield has always lacked spin. Palacios has brought us that. Lennon outstanding on one wing, Modric covering the other. So does Huddlestone - passing abilities aside - give us enough strength and assurance down the middle? Can he adapt to the pace of the game and the quality of the opposition? When he dictates, he is superb. And its those moments that have us asking the questions about his worth to the team. When the emphasis is with the opposition, that's when the concerns creep in.

If Huddlestone is around 60% of what we need from a player and Jenas is about 68% , then possibly both are nothing more than squad players and that we need to look at bringing in a more complete player, someone who is around the 80% mark and above. Someone like Carrick who gave us more than enough of everything. Or someone better. That’s no easy task. So an option would be to stick him in the team and run with it and just see where it takes us. If the talent is there and needs developing then first team appearances will answer the questions.

There’s also the option of playing Modric in the middle. But if we did, how would this improve on a Palacios-Jenas combination or a Palacios-Huddlestone pairing?

In conclusion, Hudd does offer us something but if a player doesn't scream out 'FIRST TEAM REGULAR' just by looking at him, and you have to pose questions, then it's likely that he isn't quite what's required - simply because of the doubts. To counter that, if a player isn't given a chance, then he won't be any nearer to proving he can do the job. Sometimes players do not fit into certain teams because of the way the team plays. Which is why Tommy is as a luxury.

If Jenas and Zokora can play so often for us and be considered first team regulars - with all the doubts and concerns around their abilities (or lack of) then maybe it is only fair to give Tom a chance.

If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar.

Reader Comments (12)

This one will go the same way as the great Jenas debate i.e., his supporters will argue and point to a random game here or there where big Tommy had a big game, but on the pitch evidence of his feebleness will soon see his backers dwindle and go quiet.

The very fact that this debate has gone on for so long ought to tell you something: He's far from shit, but he just isn't good enough. Time to say goodbye..

*cue Bocelli

Oct 26, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTMWNN

I like Tommy. But this "has a great shot" " we know he can them from there" mentality has to stop. He has a shot that can be hit from a long way out but only every flys wide or miles over. There is the odd goal but he needs to stop shooting. He can land a pass on a players boot but can only hit the target one in twenty and only one in forty scoring. (Stats not to be quoted. I'm sure they're worse). Like I say, I like him and think he has a great talent. But, just 'cause you can hit a ball doesn't mean you should.

Oct 26, 2012 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

Tom Hudd, just as Jenas, Bentley, Dos Santos, Livermore and the guy who went to Wolves, are all of the same ilk in that, they are a notch under what is required, week in and week out at this level. It pains me to write this but it's simply the truth.

Oct 26, 2012 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered Commentercookiebun

Huddd reminds me of Jan Molby.

It was completely evident from last Saturday's game against the Chavs that the frenetic pace of the modern game isn't fit for the way he plays.

It's all well being able to spray pin point passes but when you have the mobility of a wheel barrow, it doesn't cut it.

Oct 26, 2012 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMispent Youth

Huddlestone played quite well last night without being brilliant, but many will be unable to see past the appalling lapse which gifted Maribor their goal. He worked hard and passed the ball well and quickly generally, leaving players in oceans of space to keep the ball going forward, but time and time again the recipients did not drive forward as they needed to, but tended to cut in and play in front of the defence. Lennon, though bright and active, did this, often trying an impossible pass across his body after driving inside, and Townsend had an utterly forgettable first half, before being hauled off. Falque was a distinct improvement though perhaps he lacks the edge of pace needed. Sandro got himself in an out of trouble on countless occasions, but in doing so slowed our attacks down. Siggurdson worked hard but lacked drive, as did Defoe. Everyone, Huddlestone included, lacked patience and shot when an extra pass would have created a better chance, no one more so than Defoe. The idea that that this is what he is supposed to do, "because he is a striker" cuts no ice with me I'm afraid. He is first and foremost a member of the team. Lloris, Vertonghen and Caulker were competent, with Caulker the pick of the three in my view. The two full backs did reasonably well, and I thought Naughton was extremely unlucky to get a yellow card instead of the penalty which was far more appropriate.
All in all however, an inadequate performance by the team as a whole.

Oct 26, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn White

People are quick to fire at him for the defending yesterday, but if he's stuck a boot out he'd have given away a penalty. Townsend was actually to blame for that goal, gave the ball away cheaply while we attacked, leaving them to counter, which led to Hudd defending a position withsomeone attacking him at pace that should never have occured in the first place.

People are also quick to forget the best football spurs have played in almost my whole lifetime (i'm approaching 30), was played with Hudd in the centre of it, as a centre midfield of just 2 players. Modric and him bossed games against centre-mids of 3 players of top teams. Ok - Modric may be a cut above almost anyone, but Hudd looked great too.

So I just don't buy the calls of "he's not good enough". He actually played well yesterday, other than the goal. Better than most others on the pitch. Kept the ball and passed well. Especially for someone who is obviously not match fit. He played a handful of games over 2 years. He will need another month or 2 training and game time (starting or as sub) to really get back to his peak. Only then will we be able to judge whether his new peak (post-injury) is good enough.

I can see with Dembele, Sandro, Parker and any future additions (Moutinho etc) will probably be ahead of him as a starter, but there's not many players around with his quality on the ball, sitting on the bench. Don't forget, if you have the ball and are dictating the pace of the game, doesn't matter how quick the opposition are, as they will constantly be chasing the ball. Hudd has looked a little slow in pressing / defending, but he wouldnt have been if so many of our players weren't giving the ball away so cheaply.

Oct 26, 2012 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Any player wearing our shirt should not be subject to derogatory name calling.
Hudd has been a valued player for our Club for a number of years, however I am
of the opinion that he is to slow to fit in to the new system beeing employed by AVB.

Oct 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan

There is no point of having Huddlestone if all we have at the front is the greedy Defoe. A quick pass forward would be wasted as Defoe will usually be outmuscled by stronger opposition defenses. A clever pass to the wings is eventually wasted since the resultant cross can't be met by our greedy midget gem. So whats the point?

Nothing against Defoe. I actually really like him. But he is untrainable. The number of goal scoring opportunities that he wastes by greedily smacking the ball at a wall of defenders is unacceptable. I've noticed that Lennon, Bale, Sig, Dempsey, etc don't even bother to request a pass when its Defoe on the ball. I'm starting to give up on him.

Oct 26, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRonnie

Can u imagine if we had Charlie Adam instead of huddlestone though?! Mite of won coz being the dirty cunt he is he would of hacked that maribor player down before he got in the box! Maybe we should sign Adam as a backup for all u huddlestone lovers coz ain't no difference apart from Adam mite score a couple goals a season! Tom huddlestone - Charlie Adam

Oct 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterhackneyid

I totally disagree, Spooky. The season following your article, we finished 4th with Huddlestone and Modric at the heart of everything we did well - I don't understand how you've missed that fact. Comparing him with Jenas in terms of unfulfilled potential is way wide of the mark it beggars belief (although you did write that 3 years ago, some people on here think the comparison still holds). Matt has said it perfectly in his comment - best football Spurs have played in my lifetime was with Thud and Modric as a middle two. Matt is also spot on with his style of football comment - Hudd isn't about pressing the opposition and defending, he is about keeping posession. You need to do both, sure, but I'd rather build a team based on players who are good on the ball, rather than those who are good off it - it's the Tottenham way.
I'm going to stick my neck out and say that a fit Huddlestone, a 2009/10 season Huddlestone, should play alongside Dembele ahead of Sandro or Parker.

Oct 27, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaptainYid

Again, I feel that Hudd is to slow for The new system being implemented by
AVB. When Parker return, I would like to see him patroling and protecting our
back four. This will enable either Sandro or Dembele to push forward.

Oct 27, 2012 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan

Captainyid is hilarious! He wants Charlie Adam at spurs!

Oct 27, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterhackneyid

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