Harry Redknapp hints at new role on Spurs right for 'amazing' Hutton
Tottenham Hotspur 3 - Wolverhampton Wanderers 1: Alan Hutton made his first appearance for Spurs since 23 January, and showed, as Harry Redknapp, the manager, said, that the club might have a right-sided mirror-image of Gareth Bale within its ranks.
The Scot's marauding run from right back into the Wolverhampton Wanderers area won the 77th-minute penalty from which Rafael van der Vaart cancelled out Steven Fletcher's opener, and after Roman Pavlyuchenko had given Spurs the lead, Hutton was in the visitors' 18-yard box again to score his first goal in English football.
However, Hutton began the game on the bench and owed his presence on the field to two injuries. Vedran Corluka had a tight back, and Younes Kaboul suffered a hamstring problem as Wolves took the lead after 44 minutes.
What Hutton did in the next 46 was of high quality, but it was injury and inconsistency rather than ability that restricted him to only 20 Premier League starts for Spurs after Juande Ramos signed him from Rangers for £9m in January 2008.
He spent the second half of last season on loan to Sunderland, who wanted to make the deal permanent, but Redknapp was not tempted by their offer. "He wasn't one I was keen to get rid of," he said. "There is a player there, a real player. He gives you a Gareth Bale, if you like, on the other side – someone who can get forward and cause people problems.
"If you wanted to play with three centre halves, with him and Bale as wing-backs, you would have two amazing attacking full-backs, up there with [Glen] Johnson and Ashley Cole. It's something that interests me, something I might do at times."
It is significant that Redknapp envisages Hutton having a role in an altered system. In a back four, he would prefer the steadiness offered by Corluka, and it is the weakness in the defensive side of Hutton's game – rather than a reported tendency to enjoy nights out – that frustrates the Tottenham manager.
"He could be one of the best right-backs because he is such an athlete. It's all there for him. He's quick, he's aggressive, he's strong. He switches off defensively at times and that's what's cost him. But if he wants to work on that side of his game, he could be top-drawer."
Hutton's contribution was a reminder of the depth as well as the strength of the squad that Redknapp now has at his disposal. Van der Vaart, the most recent addition, hinted at good things to come, the highlight of his display being a dipping volley that forced one of a number of excellent saves from Marcus Hahnemann, the Wolves goalkeeper.
The trick for Redknapp will be to accommodate the Dutchman alongside Luka Modric, or to explain to one of them why he is on the bench, which is the price of managing at Champions League level.
Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, made a number of references to Tottenham's new status, but he did not need to talk up his opponents in order to draw praise for a performance that looked, until Spurs' late goals, as though it might bring them a repeat of last season's win at White Hart Lane.
With 13 yellow cards and one red in their previous two matches some had been expecting desperate measures in the Old Gold rearguard, but they seldom overstepped the mark.
"I can't help the media storm about us being a dirty team," McCarthy said. "I can't do anything to change it except keep playing the way we've been playing – compete, pass the ball, play fairly. There were a couple of games when we got a lot of bookings.
"Fifa and Uefa would like to take all that competitiveness out of football and we'll all have a nice tippy-tappy game and nobody will come and watch it, I'm afraid, because the British public actually enjoy people tackling and competing.
"We've not come down and kicked anybody. We treated our hosts with the greatest of respect – apart from scoring against them."
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Cudicini; Kaboul (Hutton, 45), King, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart (Lennon, 85), Jenas, Huddlestone, Bale; Crouch, Keane (Pavlyuchenko, 66). Substitutes not used Pletikosa (gk), Palacios, Bassong, Kranjcar.
Booked Huddlestone, van der Vaart, Pavlyuchenko.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Hahnemann; Foley, Stearman, Craddock, Ward; Mancienne; Jarvis (van Damme, 53), Henry, Jones, Fletcher (Edwards, 57); Doyle. Substitutes not used Hennessey (gk), Elokobi, Ebanks-Blake, Bent, Guedioura.
Booked Foley, van Damme, Hahnemann.
Man of the match Van der Vaart
Possession Tottenham 50% Wolves 50%
Shots on target Tottenham 12 Wolves 2
Referee M Jones (Chester) Attendance 35,940
Match rating 7/10.
Bobby Smith 1933-2010
Legendary Tottenham forward Bobby Smith died on Saturday night at the age of 77 following a short illness. Smith scored 208 goals in 317 senior games for Spurs and was a member of the side which won the Double in the 1960-61 season. "Bobby died at an Enfield hospital yesterday evening following a short illness," said a club statement yesterday. Smith won 15 England caps and scored 33 goals in Tottenham's Double-winning season and picked up winner's medals in the 1962 FA Cup final and the 1963 European Cup Winners' Cup.