Tom Huddlestone has vowed to put his injury problems behind him and lead Tottenham back into the Champions League next season.
Huddlestone was an ever-present for Harry Redknapp’s side last year but he made just 21 appearances this term after an ankle injury in November ruled him out for four months.
The injury, which required Huddlestone to undergo surgery, kept him out of Tottenham’s Champions League last-16 tie with AC Milan before he returned to action in April.
A further setback with the same ankle kept him sidelined for a month before he made his comeback in the 2-1 victory over Birmingham that secured Tottenham’s qualification to the Europa League.
The 24-year-old admits watching Spurs’ failed Champions League qualification campaign from the sidelines has been a frustrating experience but he now hopes to be a regular part of the club’s push for a top-four finish next year.
"It’s been very frustrating, especially with the size of the games that we’ve played and the ones I’ve missed," Huddlestone said.
"But injuries happen and I’ve known for a couple of years that I would eventually need an operation on my ankle, so it was sort of a case of when, not if.
"I had a little setback recently and they scanned and X-rayed it, everything was fine and the surgeon was very happy with the results.
"I have only trained twice in the last three weeks, so it was a little bit of a surprise for the manager to put me in from the beginning against Birmingham but I felt OK. My ankle felt decent enough. Once I got it moving again it felt all right."
Spurs reached the quarter-finals in a remarkable debut season in the Champions League, but their failure to secure a top-four finish has disappointed some fans.
Manager Harry Redknapp dismissed suggestions that he had underachieved though, describing this year’s campaign as the best since the Premier League began in 1992.
Huddlestone admits not playing among Europe’s elite will be a big disappointment, but is convinced that the Londoners are capable of finishing in the top four so long as they eradicate the inconsistency that hit their league campaign in the final quarter this year.
"This season has been disappointing," Huddlestone said. "You want to better yourself every year. We are a few points (eight) behind where we were last season and we’ve scored less goals, which is also a disappointment.
"This season was a learning curve for us. We weren’t used to having to play massive games in the Champions League.
"Our main objective next season has got to be to finish in the top four again. As Manchester City have shown, if you are consistent towards the end of the season then you might be able to finish in the top three."
Tottenham’s ability to hold on to hold on to their star players like Luka Modric and Gareth Bale will be key to their bid for Champions League qualification next year.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wrote an open letter to fans ahead of Sunday’s victory, which secured Birmingham’s relegation, assuring them that any bids for the club’s top stars would be rejected.
Huddlestone hopes Levy sticks to his word, and highlighted Modric’s importance to the team, saying: "It has taken us a few years to get a squad together like this, so it would be a shame if we did (sell our best players).
"Luka is unbelievable. He has the best first touch I’ve ever seen to take the ball away from a defender. I think he has been fantastic again this season."