Spurs star: Fair Play League could have ruined the next two seasons!

THERE was relief all around White Hart Lane yesterday as Tottenham secured fifth place and dodged the bullet of the Fair Play League – but not everybody is celebrating their unabridged six-week break.

For Tom Huddlestone, the season has ended far too early. And, having returned from his latest lay-off to start the final fixture against Birmingham, he now faces another enforced spell on the sofa during the summer.

However, despite his own frustration, the 24-year-old accepts out that a return to competitive action on June 30 in the Europa League qualifiers would have denied Spurs’ internationals their only summer off between the World Cup and the 2012 European Championships – increasing the risk of burnout next season, and also in 2012/13.

“For me personally, coming back in two weeks or so wouldn’t have mattered too much, because I’ve missed a lot of this season,” said Huddlestone. “But I think for the other lads, especially the ones that went to the World Cup, they wouldn’t have had a break last summer or this summer. Then if they qualify for the Euros, that would be three or four seasons on the spin without a rest, so I think it will benefit us in the long run.”

If Huddlestone is at odds with his team-mates over his willingness to get straight back onto the training pitch, he also appears to disagree with his manager’s assessment of Tottenham’s league campaign.

Harry Redknapp yesterday hailed Spurs’ season as “the best we have had since the Premier League started” – but Huddlestone is not quite as positive.

“It’s been disappointing. You obviously want to better yourself every year and I think we’re maybe 12 or 15 points down on last season,” he said.

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“We’ve scored less goals, which is also a disappointment, but it was a learning curve as well. We maybe weren’t used to having the Champions League football, and the massive games we had.

“Having finished fifth this season, our main objective has got to be to finish in the top four again next year. But as Manchester City have shown, if you’re consistent towards the end of the season you might be able to push into the top three.”

Having qualified for the Europa League, Huddlestone also feels that the Lilywhites should give the competition their full attention.

“I think especially with the squad we’ve got, the manager will be able to maybe rest a few players who have played a lot in the league, but we’ll still have quality coming in,” said the midfielder.

“We saw last year that Fulham had a good run in Europe and managed to keep a decent performance level in the league, so we shouldn’t be any different.”

Spurs’ ambitions next season may well depend on their ability to hold onto the likes of Luka Modric, and Huddlestone is expecting the rumour mill to go into overdrive this summer.

“The chairman’s come out and said that we don’t need to sell, and it’s taken a few years to get a squad together like this, so it would be a shame [to lose anyone], but in football you never know what will happen,” he said. “It will be an interesting summer I’m sure, and there will always be a lot of speculation.

“Luka’s unbelievable to play with. He’s got the best first touch I’ve ever seen to take the ball away from a defender. Obviously there’s 11 people out there, it’s not just about one player, but I think he’s been fantastic this season.”

Huddlestone will hope to play alongside Modric more regularly next season and, having made just 21 appearances this campaign, he believes that his ankle problems are finally behind him.

“I’ve only trained twice in the last three weeks. It was a little bit of a surprise for the manager to put me in from the beginning against Birmingham, but I felt okay,” he said. “My ankle felt decent enough. It was a little bit stiff at the start of the second half, but once I got it moving again it felt alright.

“It’s been very frustrating to miss so many games this season – especially the size of the games that I’ve missed. But injuries happen and I’ve known for a couple of years that I would eventually need an operation on my ankle, so it was a case of when, not if.

“It feels good. I’ve obviously had a bit of a setback recently, and they’ve scanned it and x-rayed it and everything’s fine. The surgeon’s very happy with how the results are coming along, but I think at the time they did say it would take a while – I would be back playing but it would still be in the healing process, but it feels good.

“It wasn’t the ligaments, there were a few loose bodies floating around the joint, which is why it was sometimes okay, and sometimes it wasn’t. I think that was the main problem.”