December 13 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Thursday, January 24, 2013
It has been seven and a half years since Aaron Lennon left Leeds for Tottenham but, as he prepares to return to Elland Road in the FA Cup this weekend, there has probably never been a worse time to face him.
The livewire wide man has arguably hit the best form of his career this season, finally managing to mirror Gareth Bale’s threat on the opposite flank and contributing three goals and seven assists for Spurs so far this season.
That dual danger has been too much for a number of foes. And, although Manchester United successfully shackled Bale for the majority of Sunday’s clash at White Hart Lane, their efforts to gang up on the Welshman enabled Lennon to steal the show again.
The electric 25-year-old ran Patrice Evra ragged before ultimately setting up Clint Dempsey’s equaliser – and the former Tottenham winger Chris Waddle believes he will take some stopping when he returns to face his former club Leeds on Sunday.
“I think he’s getting better with age. He was a snip when Tottenhan nicked him for £1million and he’s worth a lot more than that now,” said Waddle, who represented Tottenham from 1985 to 1989 and is now an ESPN analyst.
“As I’ve always said over the years, Aaron’s final ball has let him down. It’s pointless beating two or three men and then hitting the first man with your cross – but over the last year or two he’s started to improve his delivery.
“I think he’s started to get himself a bit steadier. When you’re playing at 100 miles an hour, when you’ve got that much pace and you’re running that fast, it’s really hard to deliver a ball.
“I think what he’s done now is he’s slowing himself up, he’s getting that little bit more composed before the delivery and that’s helping him.
“I still feel he needs to improve on his left foot when he’s cutting inside – when he hits the 18-yard line maybe his finish could be a little bit better.
“You can always improve and he should probably score more goals from that position, but that will come and overall he’s growing into a very talented winger.”
Having joined Spurs in 2005, Lennon is one of the club’s longest-serving players, but Waddle feels he is still developing and that the best is yet to come.
“Aaron’s coming of a good age now,” said the 52-year-old. “As you get older you get more experienced and more consistent, and I think that’s what happening.
“Some players peak at 18, 19 or 20 but others don’t find consistency until they’re 28, 29 or 30 and I still think there’s a lot more to come from him.
“Gareth Bale’s had that consistency for a few years. He scores goals and people talk about his crossing ability, and that was probably what was holding Aaron back – but you can’t really fault how he’s played this season.
“I’m sure that will help him to get into that England squad, and he probably thinks he could have done a lot better in the England shirt.”
Lennon spent two years in the international wilderness following the 2010 World Cup, but he returned in the qualifier against San Marino in October – and Waddle feels he has earned a place in Roy Hodgson’s next squad.
“If you look at the right side of that 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 formation it’s basically between him and [Theo] Walcott,” said Waddle, who won 62 caps for the Three Lions.
“Walcott’s just signed a new deal and he’s said he wants to play down the middle more, so that was probably good news for Aaron.
“I know Glen Johnson’s a full-back but he could do a good job on the right of midfield, so there’s a lot of competition, but all you can do is to keep performing for your club – then they’ve got no option but to get you involved.
“I don’t think Aaron can do any more than he’s doing. He’s putting a shift in and looking dangerous and I’m sure he’ll get his rewards.
“It’s not easy if there’s a manager with a certain way of playing but, if he doesn’t want to pick him, good performances for Spurs will give the manager a nudge and tell him ‘I’m worth a chance’.
“We’ve got a friendly coming up against Brazil and, when he gets a chance, it’s up to him to take it.”
Watch Leeds v Tottenham in the FA Cup Fourth Round live on ESPN at 2pm on Sunday. ESPN and Budweiser are searching for fans’ favourite ever FA Cup moments – visit ESPN.co.uk/facuppoll
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs