Dear ladies and gentleman of the jury, in the present case the Court is called upon to make a decision regarding the possibility of retaining the services of midfielder, and nominated successor to Glenn Hoddle, defendant Thomas "Thudd" Huddlestone in the long-term; and further, to decide if necessary upon which club he would otherwise likely be sentenced to serve.
It seems to me that people have very little faith in Thudd, and consequently in light of the unquestionably devastating injury to our stand out player of the year Sandro, a little panic has set in alongside a few suggestions we should be buying in a midfielder for decent cover. Maybe even that nice Moutinho, such a success at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and now unsettled at Real Madrid. He is surely the answer to our eternal midfield question "what's the most expensive transfer Spurs will never pull off?"
While everyone was initially very surprised when news leaked that we were looking to sell him at the start of the season alongside stalwart body-on-the-line centre-back Mikey "Daws" Dawson, I think it's reasonable to state that as the year has progressed we've become more accepting of the news of his probable departure as his "criminally" poor defensive work has been exposed in the new pivot/destroyer roles operating in midfield.
But why on Earth is this suddenly the case? Was that year when he and Modric blossomed together and brought us to the neck of Europe a mirage? Was it luck? I'm going to present a view that marries together his excellent performances then and his mediocre to poor performances now without recourse to "run of games" namby-pamby apologistery. I'll "tackle" the following questions, your Honour.
- Was Huddlestone's previous form a mirage?
- Is Huddlestone suddenly bad?
- Is it fair to sell him?
- To whom?
Regarding question 1 (on previous form)...
Well, first question up, my answer is no. Huddlestone was one of our key players that season, producing outrageous long range passing and a couple of decent strikes alongside a good keep-it-ticking-over ball possession style. His quiet performance against Inter (below) is pretty representative of what was a fabulous player's importance to the team's style.
He played 43 games for us across that season, and popped up with 4 goals and 3 assists; similarly to Modders though much of his role was in releasing wingers for assists. With Thudd in the side, we had a far stronger case on the counter, pinging a ball out to release Bale or Lennon with a pitch to run into in front of them, and his accuracy and reliability was pretty staggering at times. I always had a soft spot for the big guy, and was very happy he was getting a chance to shine.
Regarding question 2 (on current capability)...
Again, my answer is no. Huddlestone hasn't changed as a player dramatically since his injury. You could probably argue that he's lost a bit of confidence to try longer range passes and shots, but you'd most likely ultimately lose that argument. You could also postulate that Thudd has lost a bit of mobility, but that was never really his game and he's not out of shape. This is his normal shape and his normal pace, and his magic is in his vision.
The fact is, Spurs are a marked team. Where teams in the past would come to White Hart Lane expecting easy points and slack defences, they now come to a Champions League challenger and tend to hang back and wait for a counter-attacking opportunity. And that just doesn't suit Thudd. There's no advantage to excellent long range passing when you're camped in an opposition half. If the ball breaks loose, he doesn't have the pace of Sandro or Dembele to get back and cover. With so many defenders around, he doesn't have the same time available to pick a shot out, so his accuracy isn't quite where it was. All his best points are designed for sides playing in a lot of space; that is to say, sides with crappy defences and quick counters. We just aren't that side anymore.
When we're winning, and the opposition come out a bit to play, certainly there's a place for him. But we tend to have a seige going and on average we break through in around the 60th minute. Until then, I'm sorry to say he's a hindrance more than a help. And late on, we tend to need defenders because we come under a bit of long-ball pressure as teams panic in the last few minutes, and again Thudd's skillset is totally mismatched there. So...
Regarding question 3 (on fairness of sale)...
Yes, I think we should sell (one of my favourite Spurs players and a Derby-thefted Spurs youth success story - compare to Bostock etc., we did something right with this boy) Tommy. I think we'd get a lot of money, and that he'd go to a decent club and do very well. He just doesn't work in the system we have. Sandro and Parker and probably Livermore until we sell him (sorry, Kevin, agree to disagree) fit as the destroyers, while Dembele, soon Holtby and exciting youth product Carroll all work in the pivot/more creative role. It needs a little more subtlety of incisive pass or a little more defensive capability than Tommy H has got going for him.
And finally (on destination)...
The fact is, he'll go to Fulham. Jol needs midfielders desperately, and he's worked with Thudd before to immense success. He'll link up with Berba and play in a team with a suspect defence and an intelligent striker up top and he'll be special again. But I won't regret it, because he just doesn't suit Spurs anymore. We've grown apart. It's sad, I sometimes sniff his jumper, but it's over.
If you're as downbeat as I feel after writing that, take a look at some gif I picked up on Reddit.