Game time is the Spur for a pup snapping hard at the Pitbull's heels

'My chance could come any time so I have to be ready'
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Having bundled out five midfielders through the January sales door, manager Martin Jol was immediately assailed by an injury blow to Andy Reid in the defeat at Fulham last week, consigning the former Nottingham Forest man to six weeks in the treatment room with knee-ligament damage. Also sidelined have been the Dutch international Edgar Davids with a hairline leg fracture and Teemu Tainio (ankle), while the terms of Danny Murphy's move from Charlton five days ago preclude his involvement today against his old club.

Davids, hurt against Aston Villa a fortnight ago, will take a late decision this morning about whether he is able to turn out. "He wants to play, but he is a big doubt," Jol admitted. "He is 32 and knows by now exactly whether he will be able to play or not." While this may be bad news for the "Pitbull" and the Tottenham followers who adore the all-out commitment of the Dutchman, it is indisputably a break of another kind for Huddlestone, the 19-year-old who made his Tottenham debut when he came off the bench to replace Reid after 25 minutes at Fulham.

Huddlestone, too, missed training on Friday with a dead leg, but Jol insists that if his name goes down on the teamsheet, that debut is on for the youngster, who impressed Spurs fans with the level of his ability for England in their Under-21 European Championship play-off against France at White Hart Lane last November.

"The atmosphere in that game was incredible, and gave me a taste for the big time occasion," Huddlestone said. "Any debut is special, and though I enjoyed coming on at Fulham, to start is more of an achievement and would be the next big step."

If he does get the Jol nod, Huddlestone will find himself competing against familiar England Under-21 faces in the Charlton line-up such as Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose and Jerome Thomas. "Charlton have a good mix: young and experienced players, hard work and creativity. They are well organised and it will be tough for us," he said.

At Fulham, Huddlestone impressed after replacing Reid alongside Michael Carrick in central midfield and was delighted with the way he fitted in. "The lads gave me great encouragement and I felt confident throughout," he said. "It was just a shame about losing to a last-minute goal, and from a set-piece as well." The confidence with which Huddlestone seized his opportunity showed how he has benefited from a three-month loan spell at Wolves, where he played 13 games and was on the losing side only once, adding more experience to that gained in his 95 appearances for his first club, Derby County.

"The Tottenham management felt it was the right time for me to go to Wolves, to play regular first-team football and to gain match fitness. Wolves have experienced midfielders like Paul Ince, Darren Anderton and Colin Cameron, all seasoned internationals, and it was a good opportunity to play alongside them. The time with Ince was an experience in itself.

"He was injured for a lot of the time but he played in my last few games. He is quite fit for 38, and did his own running. He does moan a bit but that just shows he is still passionate about the game. I was able to pick up lots of little things from him and Anderton.

"My time with Wolves has made me more hungry than ever to succeed with Spurs. Now that my honeymoon period is over I am going to work very hard to get in the team. Since the club have moved a few players on that paves the way for me, and I feel if I get my chance and get my head down, then I can do well.

"The chance could come any time - this weekend, next week or in a couple of months - so I have to be on my game at all times and make sure I'm ready to do well if called upon. I am confident that I can, because I have just slotted back in here, it feels like being back home."

Having won 2-0 at The Valley back in October, Spurs have the chance of a London derby double. In the continued absence at the African Nations' Cup of their totem striker Mido, and in a bid to get the goals flowing again, Jol may bring the unsettled and unhappy Jermain Defoe off the bench and pair him with Robbie Keane up front.

While acknowledging his side drew a blank at Fulham, Jol points out that only three teams in England have scored more than Spurs. And what better than a goal or two today to welcome Tom Huddlestone to his exciting new spell at Tottenham.