Being 6ft at just 12, not many people knocked Tom Huddlestone off the ball as a schoolboy. But the tall man has since become the quiet man and that is something the Tottenham midfielder is eager to change. According to his manager Harry Redknapp, his style is reminiscent to the former Spurs hero Glenn Hoddle, whose range of passing was matched by few. But Redknapp wants the statuesque and skilful Huddlestone to add an edge to his game, a la Roy Keane or Paul Ince, to be louder and not afraid to give his teammates a tongue-lashing if they do not give him the ball.
"I've been told that since I was 11 or 12," he says. "It is not a natural thing for me, but if that is what is going to keep me in the starting XI it is something I will keep working on. I feel I have been more vocal and talkative on the pitch, giving information to other players." He is also looking to add fire to finesse. "That is the area I have tried to improve, to be more aggressive, get closer to people and make more tackles," adds Huddlestone.
He is keen to follow his manager's advice. At 22, he is no longer the young hopeful, no longer prepared to accept a bit-part role; a fact that prompted many to predict his departure in the summer. Such was the feverish speculation that he had to check with his agent when he heard three clubs had bids accepted. It was not true and Huddlestone forced his way into Redknapp's first-team plans, showing why the England manager Fabio Capello singled him out as one of four Under 21 players who could graduate at senior level.
His versatility is an asset too and that might be called upon tonight when Spurs visit Preston in the third round of the Carling Cup. The injuries to Ledley King (hamstring) and Sebastien Bassong (head) at Chelsea on Sunday mean Spurs could be without all four first-choice central defenders for the tricky test at Deepdale. Michael Dawson, who has an Achilles problem, and Jonathan Woodgate, plagued by a groin issue, are yet to figure this season, although Dawson could feature tonight. But Huddlestone is a useful alternative at the heart of the defence, a role he has performed well for his previous club Derby.
"The manager has got the faith to play me at the back, but I do prefer midfield," he admitted. "If I am playing, regardless of what position, I am happy." Spurs will meet Preston for the first time since they won a League Cup replay in 1996. But they have history going back 110 years to when they first met in the FA Cup and Preston triumphed 1-0. Meanwhile in other cup action tonight, the holders Manchester United begin their defence of the trophy with a home tie against Wolves.
Another all-Premier League tie sees Hull City take on Everton, while Aston Villa entertain Championship outfit Cardiff City at Villa Park. email@example.com Manchester United v Wolves, KO 11pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 and +5