Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp insists Gareth Bale is ready for a run in the team next month when Benoit Assou-Ekotto goes to the African Nations Cup with Cameroon.
Bale has struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane this season due to the form of left-back Assou-Ekotto, who Redknapp considers one of his most improved players in the last year.
Assou-Ekotto's form has earned him a call-up for Cameroon and means he will miss games in January, with Bale ready to step up rather than going out on loan for experience.
"He's worked hard, trained well and has been in good form," Redknapp confirmed.
"He's beginning to take his game forward. It's just that Benoit's been in great form, so Gareth has been unlucky not to play," he continued.
"I'm not looking for a left-back because you won't get a better one than Gareth Bale. He's an excellent player."
Redknapp's defence this season has been disrupted due to injuries to Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate, but Michael Dawson has impressed stepping in.
"He's been brilliant," said striker Peter Crouch after last weekend's win at Blackburn. "He heads everything, tackles everything, throws himself in.
"I've been back heading my fair share of balls away but Daws does for it the whole game, every game.
"You need his type of player at somewhere like Blackburn because you know he will stand up to it, he'll win his headers, win his tackles and credit to him and the defence for keeping us in the game."
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