Tom Huddlestone’s return to Hull City has generated no shortage of excitement among supporters eagerly anticipating the start of the new Championship season.
Seeing the 34-year-old decked out in the Black and Amber last weekend at Scunthorpe United saw a sense of nostalgia sweep through fans longing for a return to those magical Premier League days, with many feeling his experience and know-how is just what Grant McCann’s young squad are in desperate need of as they prepare to embark upon a Championship return after spending a season in League One.
There’s also been a sense of apprehension given Huddlestone’s last competitive game came for Derby County against City in January 2020, more than 550 days ago.
Curtis Davies is a man who knows Huddlestone better than most having played with him at Hull City and Derby over two hundred times, and says despite his long spell out of the game, his former teammate’s desire to remain fit and involved will shine through at Cottingham, as he relishes being back in a dressing room environment.
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“Tom’s technical ability can not to be lost, and he’s a fitness enthusiast so he wants to look after himself, even if it’s for himself at home he’ll be on his bike, doing some runs or whatever he needs to do because he’s big into it,” Davies exclusively told Hull Live.
“The only thing was keeping his head, because it was difficult for a player of his ability (to be without a club for so long).”
During a lengthy period out of the game after leaving Derby last summer, Huddlestone has seen various offers come and go, both in this country and abroad, opting instead to keep counsel until the right moment came along.
Davies explains why he thinks the midfielder has found it difficult to find a new club in the long, tough pandemic-riddled months since
“I almost call Tom an ‘inbetweener’ in the fact that his technical ability probably needed to be in the Premier League or top half of the Championship, but those squads are full of good players already so they wouldn’t need to sign him,” Davies says, himself without a contract owing to the ongoing financial difficulties at Pride Park and playing for the Rams against Real Betis on Wednesday night.
Tom Huddlestone, Adama Diomande and Andrew Robertson together at Hull City
(Image: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
“When you look at the other side of it, the clubs that probably would have him either couldn’t afford him or couldn’t afford the luxury of a player like Tom in their side because he’s such a good footballer, but some sides concede the fact that they’re not going to have as much of the ball so we need runners, and I think that goes against him.
“He got caught in that no man’s land, so I’m just glad to see he’s got back in at Hull City and he’s training at a football club first and foremost.”
While Davies hopes his ex-Tigers colleague will clinch a contract at the MKM Stadium, he says Huddlestone showing a willingness to remain fit and get back playing will put him in the shop window of other potential suitors should an offer not be forthcoming from City.
“For Grant to give him the minutes, to show that he’s alive and willing and raring to go,” Davies said.
“Even if nothing were to happen at City, he can step away and he’s got a game under his belt that he can send off to whoever wants to see if he’s still got it or not.
“I’ve never doubted Tom for one minute, in terms of his desire to play, his ability.
“He’s probably my favourite teammate, and the fact I played the most with him helped him to be the favourite one I’ve had.
“If it’s not to be at City, I hope he gets set up.”
Signing their former captain is not a straightforward task for McCann, who must manage the delicate nuances of the transfer restrictions placed on the club by the EFL after it accepted financial help last season.
Limited to 25 players, the likelihood is that McCann must move players on before he will be in a position to offer the experienced ex-England man a contract, but Davies is in no doubt that having a player of his calibre around the football club can only improve the standards.
“It would be a really good signing for City in terms of the experience to go alongside a lot of the young players that are coming through to help with their transition back into the Championship, I think it would be invaluable.”
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McCann spoke a week ago about the impact Huddlestone’s arrival had on the local lads at the football club, who grew up watching the stylish midfielder in his prime help take the club on its greatest every journey, to the Premier League and into Europe.
Keane Lewis-Potter, Jacob Greaves and Lewie Coyle, all Tigers fans growing up were in awe of him on the training pitch, though Davies is adamant that any return for Huddlestone must be for footballing reasons, and not to cheer the club on from the stands.
“It must be, all those years ago when we were getting to cup finals, winning promotion, playing in the Premier League, they would have been Hull City fans back then, even just playing in the academy, they were genuine fans that would have looked up to the likes of myself, Tom and other players,” Davies continued.
“I guess it would be an awe-struck feeling when he’s spraying a 60-yard pass on to the end of your toe because he can do that, it must be an amazing feeling.
“The big thing for Tom is, as much as you want to be there for experience and you want to be accepted somewhere because you’re experienced, he wants to go and play.
“He doesn’t want to be a cheerleader that’s going to help the young lads out, massaging their ego and telling them how good they are.
“He wants to play and is hungry to play and I think that can never be underestimated.
“If you’ve got a player who is 34, soon to be 35 and he’s still dying to play every game, he wants to progress in football again and get himself going.
“After a year out and I’ve had time out with injuries, it’s not nice to be missing but at least you’re at a football club, to have had a year out where you’ve not been around the lads, you haven’t been able to train, to view training it must have been really difficult for him.
“I’m really excited to see what the next chapter is for Tom.”