Richards fights to reclaim place in Spurs' defence

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The Independent Football

Dean Richards admits that he faces a tough battle breaking back into the Tottenham side after a run of debilitating injuries because of the team's solid defensive start to the season.

Richards is fit again after suffering a variety of setbacks - including an ear virus and a calf strain - but is well aware that he won't walk straight back into the team.

"The lads have been playing very well, and very tight defensively," he said. "I am under no illusions. It is going to be very difficult for me to come back and break straight into the team."

Richards, who returned to full fitness last week but suffered a relapse and missed Monday night's reserve game against Leicester City, added that competition at the club is proving very healthy.

"Competition for places is what every club wants and Ledley [King] has been playing out of his skin in the centre of defence. I am really pleased for him and England as well. Noureddine Naybet has also come in and is doing well too and I understand I will have to be patient.

"If I get a chance I will hopefully take it but there is also Anthony [Gardner] to consider. He's been involved in the last few games and that shows how difficult it is to get back because every club now needs at least four central defenders on the books.

"I'm obviously not going to walk straight back in but after three or four more reserves games I would hope to be back in the frame and take it from there."

Richards commanded an £8.1 million price tag when former manager Glenn Hoddle signed him from Southampton almost exactly three years ago, but the 30-year-old was offered to Portsmouth in the summer in a proposed exchange deal for left back Matthew Taylor.

That fell through but Richards has only managed one first team appearance for Tottenham since early March.

Mauriccio Taricco is unlikely to miss a match despite being banned for one match for incidents not seen by referee Steve Bennett in the 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea in April.

The Football Association decided that the former Ipswich player deserved a suspension for violent conduct towards Chelsea's Damien Duff when he appeared at a personal hearing. But the ban will start with immediate effect, which means that Taricco, who is currently out of action with an ankle injury, will sit out the ban in the physio's room.

Striker Frédéric Kanouté's hamstring injury is reportedly not as bad as first feared while new midfielders Sean Davis (knee) and Michael Carrick (ankle) are recovering well.

Mikael Forssell said that he is desperate to return to Birmingham City once he recovers from a long-term knee injury.

Forssell, whose future at the Midlands club was placed in jeopardy after his knee injury turned out to be far worse than originally thought, has admitted that the club will "always be in my heart".

After a stuttering start to the season, the Chelsea man was sent for an operation on a knee cartilage problem last week. The verdict was depressing news for Birmingham, who had taken the Finnish international on loan for a second season after he scored 17 league goals last term.

Forssell had been expected to miss around three weeks after the surgery, but doctors discovered that further complications will warrant a six- month spell on the sidelines.

"I just have to stay positive because it's something which comes with the profession," said Forssell.

"It's not just the physical pain you might have from surgery or getting back it's the mental side which is very difficult to deal with," he added.

"But you learn as a human being how to cope with these things.

"I've been injured before which has made me stronger so I know a little bit better how to cope with it mentally although it's never easy."

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