What now for Robert Huth?
Cast your mind back to Saturday 22nd May 2011, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon at the Britannia Stadium (I know that`s hard to believe) and we are minutes away from welcoming our heroes onto the pitch to salute what has been a fantastic season. However as is tradition on the last home game there is the small matter of the player of the season awards to be presented. As the awards start to be announced over the public address system we wait for the players to walk out and collect them. Up steps Robert Huth and begins collecting what seems to be a never ending stream of awards from supporters groups all over. As he collects each award a shout of "Huuuuuuuuuuuth" rings out around the stadium from the appreciative supporters for what has been an outstanding season, which has seen Huth play 44 games and score 9 goals in the process.
So Huth goes away on holiday safe in the knowledge that he has established himself at the heart of the Stoke defence alongside the ever improving Ryan Shawcross or so he thinks. During the summer Tony Pulis takes the opportunity to recruit former England centre halves Jonathon Woodgate and Matthew Upson. Pulis also states that Woodgate is here to play if fit and not sit on the bench. Fantastic news for us as we have 4 quality centre halves and healthy competition for places, not so good for Huth though as we have seen this season. With 7 league games played Woodgate and Shawcross have been the favoured league pairing and for the Europa league it has been Shawcross and Upson. As for Huth he has had to settle for a position at right back which he never looks comfortable as he struggles to deal with the more nimble left wingers. More recently Huth has been replaced at right back by Wilkinson who for me is by far and away a lot better full back defensively, and offers a lot more going forward as we witnessed against United. In our last Europa League game against Besiktas Huth played at left back and was given a torrid time by Ricardo Quaresma.
So why has Huth fallen out of favour with Tony Pulis? In my opinion while Huth is a good no nonsense centre half he is also a liability at times who is likely to do something rash at any given moment. When we signed Upson he was asked if he had spoken to his new team mate Huth who only the season before had tried to knock him out in a moment of Huth madness. Upson laughed of the comments and said it`s just football. The truth is its just Robert Huth, It seems that every game you see Huth grabbing, kicking or crashing his forearm on somebody ad getting away with it. Even in the cup final although he was not fully fit he was lucky to stay on the pitch for his clash with Mario Balotelli. Perhaps Tony Pulis believes that crowd favourite Huth is a liability as he strives to take Stoke onto the next level. More recently it seems that Huth might lose the battle for the right back spot to Wilkinson as Pulis finally realises that Wilko is a better player in that position. If Woodgate, Upson and Shawcross stay fit and Wilko makes the right back spot his own when the January transfer window arrives, will Huth decide that the time is right for a move, don`t forget he was courted by both Tottenham and Liverpool last season.
How quickly things change in football!
Writer: SCOTT TRAFFORD