Tottenham Hotspur, in short, has an injury crisis. It has been confirmed today that Tom Huddlestone sustained ankle ligament damage against Everton on Sunday, whilst Jermaine Jenas is set for a groin operation. With Redknapp having forewarned that the club is short in the centre of midfield, it now seems ludicrous that the club allowed Jamie O’Hara to return to Fratton Park in January. If Redknapp was as concerned with the clubs options in midfield as he should have been, why was the England U-21 international not included in Harry’s plans for the remainder of the season?
Huddlestone has joined a growing list of casualties, with Carlo Cudicini, Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King, David Bentley, Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas all out on the treatment table. It would perhaps be unfair to blame Redknapp on this front, as no one could have predicted such a large injury list. The club today decided to recall Jake Livermore from Peterborough United as cover, with Jenas and Huddlestone thought to be out for an extended period. Further, Wilson Palacios is currently one booking away from a two match suspension, having picked up nine bookings.
With respect to Livermore, he lacks Premier League experience, and is not what Tottenham require in their quest for Champions League football. The likely scenario is that either Kaboul or Gudjohnsen will move into midfield with Palacios, with Kranjcar and Modric in wide positions. Otherwise Bale could move to the left of midfield with Benoit Assou-Ekotto filling in at left-back. However, with Tottenham looking seriously stretched in midfield, O’Hara’s return to Portsmouth looks increasingly questionable.
Redknapp started the season knowing he needed to reinforce the central midfield area, and it was widely believed that the Brazilian midfielder Sandro was on his was to North London in a £6m deal. With Jenas on the bench, Tottenham looked like they had adequate cover, and so the decision to send O’Hara out on loan in August appeared sound. The player needed first team football, and it would allow Redknapp to assess the 23 year old, as well as putting him in the shop window if the club decided to sell. Nevertheless, once it was clear in December or January that Sandro was unlikely to join, Redknapp’s decision to allow O’Hara’s return to the South Coast becomes confusing. This is especially true when one considers Redknapp’s comments in Hotspur Magazine. Asked whether O’Hara was part of Redknapp’s plans, the Spurs boss replied:
“Yes, I really like Jamie… He’s doing great at Portsmouth and has a lot to offer, a really good footballer. He’s got plenty of games under his belt and is a smashing lad as well.”
Redknapp knows O’Hara has a lot of supporters at White Hart Lane, and so may have been insincere regarding his plans for O’Hara. However, if taken prima facie, why did Redknapp let O’Hara go?
One explanation is that O’Hara needs first team football and will return a better player next season. However, Jenas has been struggling with an injury throughout this campaign, and Redknapp should have perhaps been more prudent before allowing adequate cover to leave the club. Some reports have suggested that Redknapp allowed O’Hara to return to Portsmouth as a good will gesture or gentleman’s agreement after the club signed Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar and then Younes Kaboul. Other more sinister rumours revolve around O’Hara’s desire to quit White Hart Lane owing to his relationship with Danielle Lloyd, who has also been linked with Jermain Defoe. A third consideration is simply O’Hara’s desire for first team football, as he has stated his desire to leave the club on numerous occasions. Speaking to Sky Sports News, the 23-year-old said:
“The long term is something I’m going to have to sit down and talk about at the end of the season; I went back to Tottenham and wasn’t really involved, so maybe I have to move on… Sometimes you have to move on as a younger English player to further your career.”
Whatever the reasoning behind O’Hara’s departure for Pompey, it has left Redknapp with a sizeable problem in midfield. Whilst opinion is split on O’Hara’s long term ability to play in a side competing for the top four, he has the experience, determination and guile that would have served Tottenham well, if only as a short term solution. However, for some reason, the player is not at the club when he is most needed. What those reasons are, remain unclear…
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