Tottenham try to stave off Bruce's bid for Huddlestone

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Harry Redknapp would not be prepared to let his midfielder Tom Huddlestone leave after the Tottenham player emerged as another one of Steve Bruce's targets this summer as the new Sunderland manager attempts an ambitious rebuilding programme at the club.

As well as targeting the Portsmouth centre-forward Peter Crouch, the Sunderland manager is known to be a long-term admirer of Huddlestone, 22, who has found himself in and out of the Spurs team under Redknapp. Spurs have shown interest in Gareth Barry and made discreet enquiries about Joe Cole's availability but Redknapp does not want Huddlestone, who has been included in one of Fabio Capello's England squads, to leave.

Spurs have consistently said that the player is not for sale and that he is not among the sizeable collection of first-team professionals whom they would like to get off the wage bill. Huddlestone signed a new five-year deal last season. He had a knee operation this summer which ruled him out of the Under-21 European championship.

The Stoke City chairman, Peter Coates, was involved in a bizarre U-turn yesterday when he first expressed an interest in the West Ham striker Dean Ashton and then denied he had ever said it. Coates initially said that the club were interested in signing the out-of-contract Michael Owen and also the injury-ravaged Ashton, who has struggled for fitness since he broke an ankle in an England training session almost three years ago.

Coates said: "Tony [Pulis, Stoke's manager] has talked to West Ham and that's the stage we're at. Whether there's any deal to be done [I don't know]. Dean was at Stoke City as a boy so it would be full circle for him. Tony likes him as a player but there are lots of ifs and buts about it because of Dean's [injury] problems. I wouldn't have a clue at this stage whether anything will come of that."

Later Coates claimed he had been "misunderstood" and – presumably under pressure from West Ham – tried to withdraw his comments. "It's absolute nonsense," he told BBC Radio Stoke. "I have not said we are in talks with West Ham. We are a million miles from doing anything with Dean Ashton and probably won't."

Ashton, who made his England debut against Trinidad & Tobago in June 2008, missed most of last season through injury and did not play after 13 September.