Good Luck Tom Huddlestone - Tottenham's Loss Is Hull's Gain

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Ability, and sheer ability alone, rarely creates a success out of anything. You don’t need to have read ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell to know that much. Tom Huddlestone’s career to date can be summed up by the sort of comment I used to be on the receiving end of in every school report I received and at every parents evening I attended. “Tom clearly has the natural ability to succeed required, but he needs to concentrate and apply himself fully to reach his maximum potential”.

I once wrote, around this time last season in fact, that if Tom Huddlestone were to finally acquire a head on his shoulders as cultured and refined as each one of his ambidextrous feet, then Tottenham needn’t waste resources on looking elsewhere to fill the void left by one Luka Modrić. However, the correlation between his apparent lethargic attitude and outlook and his failure to become a first team regular are painfully unignorable.

Hull, though, now have a task ahead of them. In the same that when buying a player from the South-American leagues it’s prudent to evaluate the man’s personality as much as his footballing ability, the same goes for Huddlestone. If Steve Bruce really believes he has the managerial ability that eluded Jol, Ramos, Redknapp and Villas-Boas to fully enthuse and motivate the player, then he and his club are on to an absolute winner.

Huddlestone’s best period in his time at Tottenham came under Harry Redknapp, during the season we played in the Champions League. With the focus on attacking football in Europe, and continental defences less likely to hassle in the same manner they do domestically, the tempo of the matches suited him down to the ground. Not blessed with anything close to what would be described as natural pace or athleticism, it’s continually his ability to redistribute possession and play miraculous passes that shines brightest when he’s performing on song.

In order to get the best out of him, I’d be tempted to mould the midfield around him, giving the responsibility of being the man to curate the play and launch the attacks. What is needed alongside Huddlestone, if they don’t have so already, is a competent, energetic defensive midfielder. Although he’s built like a centre-back and isn’t half bad when he’s asked to play there, he simply doesn’t cover enough ground to be considered a ball winner in the middle of the park.

He is, as we ever so shamefully dub them in England, a ‘luxury’ sort of player. Will he be the man to drag the team kicking and screaming out of a relegation battle? No, probably not. But what he will do is add a touch of class to play of Hull, as long as he hasn’t just been bought to sit deep and launch 50-yard passes forward on a weekly basis. In all honesty, Hull might not have been the best move for him. Due to his lack of impact, his reputation may well be non-existent beyond our shores, but I can’t help feeling that a move La Liga or Serie A wouldn’t have been far from perfect for his style of play.

Tottenham are losing a player who’s best days are yet to come, if they ever do, and I’m honesty sad to see him go. As alluded to, Huddlestone isn’t the sort of footballer we produce on a regular enough basis in England. He’s all about touch, poise, passing and patience - it’s a crying shame that players with half of his ability such as Jordan Henderson go for a fee that’s around almost double his. However, the most positive aspect of Henderson’s game reflects the most negative of Huddlestone; he’s a tryer, he has heart and he’s mobile.

What have Hull signed then, if not a victim of his own work ethic and the in-complexities of English football? On his day, they have a man who looks every inch the sort of cultured deep-lying playmaker that legends such as Paul Scholes and Andrea Pirlo have became and become in the latter stages of their careers. He can strike a ball finer than almost any other player I’ve ever seen in my life, each boot able to cannon shots and ping passes that travel at a lightspeed with an embarrassingly low back-lift.

The key for Hull, and especially Steve Bruce, is to keep him motivated as discussed, but to also use his properly. It’ll be a crying shame if we are to see Huddlestone become the centrepiece of long ball tactics and unambitious football - it would be akin to using the Champions League trophy as a door stop or paper weight, it’s not a role that befits the object in question.

Tottenham’s loss is Hull’s gain, but suffice to say, if there ever comes a day that Tom Huddlestone finally realises that hard work may benefit his game, and he taps in to that currently wasted pool of talent that he largely ignores, a midfielder of that ilk would be welcome back to White Hart Lane with open arms. The required maturity might just have to come with age.

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