Huddlestone makes England squad but the waiting game continues

FRANK Lampard’s absence from Fabio Capello’s England squad has handed Tom Huddlestone the glimpse of a future which even he does not seem to believe exists.

FRANK Lampard’s absence from Fabio Capello’s England squad has handed Tom Huddlestone the glimpse of a future which even he does not seem to believe exists.

Huddlestone was called into Capello’s squad to face Montenegro on Tuesday during the very week he appeared to write off his future England chances altogether.

“It’s virtually impossible to get into the midfield. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have been there for a number of years,” reflected Tottenham’s powerhouse midfielder.

“Gareth Barry has done very well and Michael Carrick has been in and out of the squad. Then James Milner played quite a lot of last season in central midfield and did excellent for Villa and now Man City.”

It is a frustratingly familiar problem for Tom Huddlestone, who has had to watch Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Milner and even Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere slide past him in the queue for England’s central midfield spots.

Debate raged earlier this season about the relative merits of solving England’s passing problems by recalling Paul Scholes to the fold or even, absurdly, calling on Everton Spaniard Mikel Arteta.

Most Read

On each occasion Huddlestone has been inexplicably overlooked, bitter body blows for a player who has enjoyed rapid development at club level from a bit-part youngster to a midfield mainstay in a side enjoying Champions League football.

But with Lampard absent from the current squad through injury and Milner out through suspension, the holding duties in the England midfield may finally rest with Huddlestone. It is a role Redknapp believes he is made for.

“I could see Tom playing that role. It depends how you play. If you play five across midfield, which we have done at times, you might want to play with one striker,” said the Tottenham boss.

“Tom can sit, can play that holding role in front of the back four. He can get on the ball and that suits him fine, to set everything off from the back. I don’t pick the team – I just hope he gets a chance.

“What sort of player is he? He’s a great passer, he doesn’t know whether he’s left-footed or right-footed, which is amazing. He’ll take corners with his left or right foot. It’s a great advantage, it gives him much more passing options to have two great feet.

“He’s got that ability to pass the ball, to clip the ball to anywhere he wants on a football pitch.”

It is a shame Redknapp’s faith in Huddlestone is not shared by the player himself, because he has risen to the top of his game this season.

Being one of the few England midfielders with a clean slate, having avoided his nation’s World Cup debacle, he has featured in 11 of Tottenham’s 14 games so far.

He is Redknapp’s Mr Reliable, possessing a passing range which matches Gerrard and Lampard – and, the key point which is so easy to forget, Huddlestone still has age on his side.

At 23, he is the joint second youngest midfielder in England’s current squad, seven years Gerrard’s junior and nine years younger than Lampard (pictured left). He is the same age as Manchester City’s Adam Johnson, currently being hailed as a player for the future.

Huddlestone is still some six years from his peak, by which time Gerrard, Lampard, Barry and Milner will all be in their mid-30s past the peak of their powers and leaving the England midfield vacant for the next generation.

Patience is the name of the game for Huddlestone. Champions League football has put Tottenham on the biggest stage in club football, one from which it is far easier to catch the England manager’s eye. If he continues in his current form, he will not be playing second fiddle for much longer.

None of which needs to be told to Redknapp, who is in no doubt that Huddlestone’s shoulders, which have been broad enough to cope with his new responsibility at Tottenham, are similarly broad enough to do the same for England.

“He’s been a regular and he knows he’s an important part of the way we like to play football here,” said Redknapp.

“His confidence is high and it’s all about confidence. If your confidence is high you go out and perform well.

“It’s an area we’re strong in, but Tom has been the one that has stayed in through it all.

“He just gets on with his football. I think he just feels important now, he’s in the team every week and he’s not thinking ‘oh if I make a couple of mistakes I’m off out of the team.’

“When we picked that team we told him he’s got to hold and give us that bit of stability in there because everybody’s looking to bomb forward.

“He’s a clever footballer, he understands the game.”