Tottenham Hotspur have not been averse to bringing former plays back to the club in some capacity in recent years. According to a newspaper report this week, it appears they are considering instigating another reunion:
As David Hytner's article makes clear, Steven Caulker returning to Tottenham is far from a sure thing.
An ever-present with Cardiff City this season, the centre-back has got the regular first-team football he partly left Spurs for. As he put it at the time in a statement on his new team's official website:
I thank Tottenham for everything they’ve done for me, having been there since I was a kid. But I’m here to back myself up now and show what I can do. This is a fresh start, a new chapter and I’m here to kick on.
The Bluebirds being relegated and a situation at White Hart Lane that could see further change to that which has already taken place since the player's departure (chiefly the manager who let him go, Andre Villas-Boas, not being around), could make him open to a return.
In the event of Cardiff being relegated, should Tottenham re-sign Steven Caulker?
Despite Cardiff's defensive struggles, Caulker's stock remains high. As an England international, he is sure to provoke interest from other clubs in the event of him becoming available.
As for breaking the old adage of not going back, Spurs have had varying success here over the last decade or so.
Club great Glenn Hoddle became manager in 2001 and quickly signed another old fan-favourite in Teddy Sheringham. The striker had a solid two seasons individually, but the team faltered over Hoddle's two-and-a-half-year reign, culminating in his sacking in September 2003.
Harry Redknapp added Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood to his coaching staff upon his appointment as manager in late 2008. Both, of course, are still at Spurs, with the latter the latest to try his luck as boss.
Redknapp also re-signed Pascal Chimbonda, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane in his first transfer window. Each played a part in the north Londoners maintaining their top-flight status, but only Defoe would contribute beyond that calendar year.
Former youth-team player Peter Crouch finally got to make his senior debut for Spurs when he was bought in summer 2009. Only Younes Kaboul—brought back in January 2010 and who, like Defoe and Crouch, Redknapp signed for Portsmouth—now remains of those players to return to Spurs for a second spell.
Two years Kaboul's junior when he returned, Caulker's youth and future potential would similarly soften the blow of Spurs having to buy back a defender they had under contract not so long ago.
Save for his injuries, the Frenchman has largely proved to be a decent bit of business, at least in terms of helping keep the squad stocked with centre-backs of a certain calibre. After a costly display at home to Benfica, his last couple of performances have served to remind how dominant he can be when he is focused.
Though part of the aforementioned Cardiff defence that continues to ship goals while helplessly watching on (28 in their last 12 league games), it would be harsh to hold that too much against Caulker. The club he joined has undergone a change of management, with the stable and familiar planning of Malky Mackay giving way to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's desperate and frantic attempts to regain a sense of positive momentum already fraying.
Caulker is a talented all-round centre-back, but he's not yet experienced enough to carry a defence. Back at Spurs, he would certainly benefit from a better class of defender around him.
As things stand, though, Spurs should only consider reinvesting in Caulker if one or more of their current crop leaves.
The aforementioned Guardian article mentions Kaboul's expiring contract as well as Barcelona possibly being interested in Jan Vertonghen. What Sherwood has in mind for those two, Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson remains to be seen.
If all are on board with staying as is, that quartet is strong and balanced enough to be more than enough for Spurs if they are utilised in the right combinations. The team's biggest defensive problems have predominantly come when changes have been unnecessary (as when Chiriches was replaced by Kaboul away at Manchester City) or forced through injury (Etienne Capoue deputising against Liverpool in December).
The latter could certainly be helped by bringing in extra cover, either from the club's youth pool or elsewhere. Having had a good taste of regular first-team football, that is certainly not a role Caulker would consider.
Caulker does not run the risk of ruining precious memories at Tottenham, as he barely had the chance to make any as a player. Even so, both parties should not organise a reunion lightly.