Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has revealed that he did not want to release Jonathan Woodgate - a player he rates as one of England's best defenders when fit.
Woodgate's injury-riddled three-and-a-half year spell at Tottenham came to an end this summer when he joined Stoke. Woodgate only made 65 appearances during his time at White Hart Lane but Redknapp was keen to keep hold of the 31-year-old, but was thwarted by the club, who were not convinced the player merited another contract, even on a pay-as-you-play basis.
"I wanted to keep Jonathan. I wouldn't have let him go," said Redknapp, whose side take on Woodgate's new team in Tuesday night's Carling Cup third-round clash at the Britannia Stadium.
"I asked him to come back to train but the secretary said he couldn't because of the insurance. That was the problem.
"He was convinced he was fit again. It was gutting but I can see the club's point of view. He had barely kicked a ball in two years."
An own goal against Sunderland aside, Woodgate has made a good impression at the Britannia Stadium and Redknapp hopes the former England defender can get back to his best.
"If he can stay fit he is one of the best. He and Ledley King are up there with the John Terrys and Rio Ferdinands of the world," added Redknapp, who was also reluctantly let Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios joined Stoke this summer too.
"I like Crouchy as well. He wasn't one I was mad to get rid of," Redknapp said.
"Wilson's deal was dependent on Crouchy going. I was looking at the time to bring Gary Cahill in and we needed to raise some money to do that, and bring in Scott Parker, so we ended up getting around about £20million for the two."
Redknapp will make several changes to the side that beat Liverpool 4-0 at the weekend for Tuesday evening's game at the Britannia Stadium. Several internationals, including Vedran Corluka and fit-again pair Sandro and William Gallas, will start though and Redknapp wants his team to go far in the competition.