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Huddlestone out for 5-6 Months

29 Sep

Whilst this is a shame for Huddlestone, and the more cerebral fans, it isn’t the blow it might have been.  What with the swift integration of Parker, the return to fitness of Sandro, the return to fold of Modric, the emergence of Carroll and Livermore, and the ‘in-a-pinch’ability of Krancjar and Pienaar; we shouldn’t find ourselves light in midfield.  It might even be a blessing.

We’ve always been the most nervous, the most mentally fragile club in the division.  It was obvious, for example, that someone like ‘Uncle ‘Arry would be a better fit with our squad than the latest saveur du mois from across the channel.  similarly, a period of enforced stability, of a settled first team, usually results in the most intense fecundity.

That said, this might have been the time we saw Huddlestone transcend into a truly great player this year.  Since becoming a fixture in the side two seasons ago, he’s been mightily effective yet not always playing at the level we might expect. Overall his hollywood passing has been average, his defensive work has been middling and the expected barrage of long range shots has all but fallen silent.  Yet we’ve seen enough to know these skills are there and waiting.

It might be that where Huddlestone really needs to progress is his head.  For someone like him – not quite a general, more a field marshal back in the war room – he needs to dominate.  He needs to own that area of the pitch, the cerebellum, from where he needs to direct the rest of the team.  It’s probably not easy for a young player to take on that role when he’s surrounded by expensive, older and more decorated players; especially when he’s not been schooled in the art of arrogance like Fabregas.  But he mustn’t, for example, let Jenas drop back and pick the ball up from defence, nor must he let Van der Vaart roam as deep has done recently.  He has to take a grip on the team.

tom huddlestone midfielderThe signs were good.  In the home game against Inter last year, he gave a real captain’s performance; perhaps, barring Ledley’s lead-by-example masterclasses, the most impressive/important we’ve seen in years.  He coupled the discipline of a Spartan with the rabid attention to detail of a Star Wars fan.  He held the team together in the midst of a maelstrom of ecstasy – the falcon heard the falconer and the centre held.  Then there was the hearts game.  Recently Tom Carroll has said how Huddlestone gave him encouragement – which is obviously an important step in transitioning to a senior player –  but more than that, you could see how Huddlestone was allowing space for Carroll to come inside from the left and get involved in the game, or how he was willingly covering at left back, allowing Townsend to get forward.

There wasn’t a lot we could take from that damp squib of a game but Huddlestone’s subtle machinations suggested a rare awareness of what he should do in the circumstances – essentially nurture the younger players.  Maybe these are strange stages of evolution to look for in a player, but Huddlestone is an interesting player.  The next few months are sure to be exciting and stimulating but a little less now than they might have been.