Postiga's chance to show Spurs striking talent

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The Independent Football

While Frederic Kanoute starts to fulfil his international aspirations with Mali, another Tottenham striker is hoping to kick-start his career much closer to home in one of the season's traditional glamour matches.

Helder Postiga probably has not heard of Beagle Two - indeed, David Pleat is sure that the Portuguese does not read newspapers - and the 21-year-old has only been seen slightly more recently than the Mars landing craft. Nevertheless, the north London club are looking to the man who cost £6.25m from Porto last summer to help prise them further away from the relegation zone and ever closer to the warm embrace of the top half of the table.

The under-21 international has even been linked with loan moves to Spain or back to Portugal during the transfer window, stories which were flatly denied by the caretaker manager yesterday. Instead Postiga is all set to partner Robbie Keane against Liverpool this afternoon.

Pleat confirmed: "We weren't shocked to see reports that Postiga would go on loan somewhere because at the moment agents are having to work very hard. There was never any chance he would leave. Agents see that he's been out of the team, he's behind Kanouté, so they try and manoeuvre a deal. We're not loaning him to anyone although we are aware there has been plenty of interest."

That may surprise Spurs fans, who have seen one of their star buys of last year dissolve into virtual anonymity when given his chance on the pitch. Yet, there is no doubt there were high hopes that he would make an instant impact, having helped Porto win the Uefa Cup last May against Celtic.

Pleat, the caretaker for the rest of the season, still believes Postiga can prove his worth, despite having scored just one goal in 19 games. That solitary strike came in the Carling Cup victory over Manchester City but Pleat said: "Helder may be the story today. He will have a chance to show what he can do. He's now five months in and hopefully he is five months wiser. There's no guarantee he will play for the next three weeks [the minimum time Kanouté is away] but within reason he can look forward to that and he has to believe he can play for us."

Kanouté's decision to play for Mali in the forthcoming African Nations Cup in Tunisia is likely to hit Spurs hard, as the erstwhile Frenchman is the club's top scorer with 12 goals. Yet Pleat can see that Postiga's own international hopes could be the incentive to get the best out of their third most expensive purchase - without hurting the club's own progress.

Postiga is part of the new generation of Portuguese, like Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and Hugo Viana at Newcastle, who see the European Championship looming in their own country this summer and who do not want to miss out on the chance of a lifetime. "There is the same situation here, as there is with Viana and Ronaldo, in that he wants first team football," Pleat said. "He's come through the Portuguese set-up and is desperate to play in Euro 2004. But if he's not playing first team football he sees that chance dwindling."

Pleat moaned long and hard about Kanouté's opportunistic embrace of the chance to play in an international tournament at a time when Spurs have - like all other clubs losing their African players - a string of important fixtures. But he countered yesterday: "I've always said that one man's demise is another man's opportunity. I'm saying to him 'come on now Helder, you're in'."

He also offered a couple of reasons as to why Postiga has struggled - namely the weather and, more convincingly, tighter defending here than he was used to at home - but he feels the Liverpool game could suit him. "He likes to get in behind defences and that might help stretch Liverpool, who we expect to have two banks of four players," Pleat said.

Beagle Two may have been lost for good, but a Postiga Premiership goal will at least prove that he has finally found himself.

* The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, has ruled out the selling of Emile Heskey during the transfer window.