Back where it all began 14 years ago, Tom Huddlestone is, once again, a Derby County player!
The midfielder became the Rams’ third summer signing today, following Curtis Davies and Andre Wisdom through the doors at Pride Park Stadium and off the back of his arrival, dcfc.co.uk has taken a detailed look at his career and what he has accomplished since leaving.
Previous Clubs: Derby County, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers (Loan), Hull City
The Rapid Rise…
Born across the A52 in Nottingham on 30th December 1986, Tom Huddlestone’s footballing career actually began with the Rams’ local rivals Nottingham Forest.
Finding his best position took some time. Initially, he was a flying winger in the Reds’ youth set-up. The next, a striker. He owed that largely to a dramatic growth spurt – he was six feet tall by the age of 11 - but a year later was released.
He went on to join Derby’s youth system soon afterwards and his rise through the ranks was rapid.
By the age of 15 he had played for the Rams’ reserves and was already in the first-team’s thoughts.
George Burley named him in the starting line-up, at the age of 16, on the opening day of the 2003/04 season. Clearly, it was a game to forget as Derby went down 3-0 – but Huddlestone shone with a Man of the Match display – a solid sign of things to come.
He made 45 appearances that season and was a bright spark in a year of struggle on the pitch.
A further 50 outings followed over the 2004/05 campaign as Derby reached the play-offs, losing to Preston North End at the semi-final stage. Huddlestone’s form saw him named in the Championship’s Team of the Season.
Understandably, Premier League sides were sitting up and taking note.
Premier League Dream…
Tottenham Hotspur made their move for Huddlestone in January 2005, with a reported fee of £2.5 million agreed – although he wouldn’t make the switch to White Hart Lane until the end of the campaign.
He was now a little fish in a very big pond with the North London club and, initially, had to bide his time when it came to making his debut.
The midfielder spent the early months of the 2005/06 season on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers back in the Championship and scored his first-ever career goal, ironically, against Derby in a 3-0 win at Pride Park Stadium in November 2005.
After a successful period at Molineux, where he made 13 appearances, he returned to Spurs even more prepared to take the bull by the horns and make his name in the top-flight.
Huddlestone made his Premier League bow off the bench against Fulham in January 2006 and made three further appearances before the season was out.
He was a more regular feature in 2006/07, playing 35 times in all competitions and added European experience to his CV by featuring in the UEFA Cup too.
After scoring twice in a League Cup win over Port Vale to open his goalscoring account, he scored a crucial winner in the Premier League at Manchester City in December 2006. By the end of the season, he was a first-team regular under Martin Jol.
It was more of the same in 2007/08, playing 45 times and scoring four on four occasions. He also came off the bench to help Spurs defeat Chelsea 2-1 in the 2007/08 League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, the first major honour of his career. He racked up another 35 appearances in 2008/09 and 43 more in 2009/10.
The 2010/11 campaign saw his appearances limited to just 21, but he still played a crucial role. Spurs, having qualified for the Champions League, reached the Quarter Finals and faced Real Madrid in April 2011 – with Huddlestone starting in midfield almost five months out due to injury. He ended the season on a high note with a goal in a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Arsenal.
The following campaign, 2011/12, was hugely frustrating and he made only four appearances due to injury. He failed to feature from August onwards and, in total, didn’t play a competitive game for over 12 months.
Huddlestone’s return in September 2012 wasn’t the one he planned. He came off the bench in a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich City, but was sent off late on. Putting that disappointment aside, he made 28 appearances in total that season – before he departed for pastures new.
Eye Of The Tiger…
After eight years at Tottenham, it was time for a fresh start in the summer of 2013.
Hull City, promoted to the Premier League under Steve Bruce, were on the lookout for some top-flight nous and experience in the middle of the park.
Huddlestone ticked all the boxes.
Bruce broke the Tigers’ transfer record to bring the midfielder through the door and, once again, he became an influential figure.
His debut came off the substitutes bench in a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, but he went on to make 40 appearances as Hull not only secured Premier League safety, but reached the Emirates FA Cup Final.
Huddlestone could not prevent the Tigers from avoiding the drop the following year, however, meaning he would be playing outside of the top-flight for the first time since January 2006.
It would prove to be a short stay.
Taking his tally of appearances for Hull past the century mark, the midfielder played a vital role in helping the club return to the Premier League at the first attempt, via the lottery of the play-offs.
Last season may have proven to be his last at Hull, but again and again, Huddlestone proved he was still more than capable of mixing it with the big boys – a quality he will be looking to bring to the Derby midfield this coming season.
The 32 Month Wait… For A Hair Cut!
He might be famous for spreading passes across the park left, right, and centre, but in recent years, Huddlestone’s Barnet has also raised a few eyebrows.
The midfielder raised over £35,000 for charity after vowing not to cut his hair as part of a dare following his strike for Tottenham in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal in 2011.
Now, the Derby Academy graduate has never been renowned for his goalscoring prowess – so much so that his former Spurs team-mates made the most of the fact, daring him to not to have his hair cut until he scored again.
Huddlestone’s drought, however, would go on for 32 months!
It’s fair to say he was ready for a trim at that point.
Fully-Fledged Three Lion…
As well as playing consistently right at the peak of club football in the Premier League and even the Champions League, Huddlestone rose through the England age groups – starting from the Under-16s – to play the nation’s senior team.
The midfielder collected four caps for the Three Lions after making his debut in 2009 in a friendly match against Brazil.
During this era, Huddlestone was competing alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard for a place in the middle of the park.
His last appearance on the on the international stage came in 2012, but since then, there have been calls for him to get a recall – another indicator of just how influential a player he continues to be.