King's World Cup sacrifices
World Cup 2010: Rustenburg
Ledley King is willing to sacrifice even the simple pleasures of a game of garden football with son Coby if it means prolonging his World Cup ambitions with England.
King's knee problems are so well-chronicled that he admits even the energetic five-year-old is well aware of his condition - and even more so when his dad tells him matches between the pair must wait for another day as he attempts to extend his football career.
Fabio Capello is such an avid admirer of King's defensive abilities and immaculate positional play that he is effectively prepared to give him special dispensation to conduct his own personal fitness regime away from England's World Cup squad.
And it is a faith that will be put to the test, and hopefully rewarded, after King emerged as prime contender to partner John Terry in England's central defence in South Africa after Rio Ferdinand was ruled out with a knee injury.
Though limited to only once or twice a week, King trains when possible with the rest of the squad
King was out training in the baking Rustenburg sun, which had even locals well-used to the weather conditions seeking shade under umbrellas, as the squad worked out on Sunday.
It was a rare sighting of Tottenham's captain in full flight on the training ground, as he confirmed he is adhering to the restricted regime that nursed him through the end of last season and saw him play a key role in taking Harry Redknapp's side into the Champions League.
He said: "I go out on the training pitch once or twice a week, work in the gym, go in the pool and train the day before a game."
And the restrictions even apply at home as he admitted: "There are plenty of times when Coby is trying to get me out into the garden and sometimes you have to say 'no'. It can be tough. It is difficult as a dad to say you can't go out and play with your son."
King will hope his pose for the photographers, standing astride a rock in the grounds of England's Rustenburg training headquarters, will prove symbolic as Capello calls on him to provide defensive solidity in Ferdinand's absence.
It is another example of this sport's ability to surprise and provide an unlikely script as King prepares for World Cup combat after learning to manage the chronic knee trouble that has had obituaries for his career penned more than once.
But as he spoke thoughtfully at England's media centre about his long battles for fitness, it is clear even the normally stringent Capello has been prepared to do more or less whatever it takes to get King on board the plane for South Africa.
And if, as seems likely, he partners Terry against the United States in England's first World Cup group game, he will renew an acquaintance that stretches back to when the pair were emerging schoolboy players.
King and Terry both played for Senrab FC, the renowned boys' team based in London's Poplar, that was also a nurturing ground for Paul Konchesky, Jermain Defoe, Sol Campbell, Bobby Zamora, Jlloyd Samuel and many others.
He said: "John was a midfield player back then. He was still shouting at everyone but he was a little shorter. He still had all those leadership qualities he still possesses now."
And even though he has not played alongside Terry for England in three years, he is convinced no rust will need knocking off if they play together in Rustenburg.
"Communication is key," said King. "I have worked enough with John and I know his game. John is a big talker and I will talk. I'm sure we will be fine."
It was a broken foot as opposed to familiar knee problems that deprived King of a place in the World Cup in Germany four years ago. In Portugal at Euro 2004, he gave an impressive display against France as a late call-up in England's opening game, but missed the quarter-final defeat on penalties to the host nation as it co-incided with the birth of his son.
King has spoken of the difficulty not to push himself harder than his knee should endure
Now, given an unexpected chance after Ferdinand failed to emerge unscathed from England's first training session, King is in the mood to make up for those previous disappointments, the long hours in recovery, and the personal and professional sacrifices he has been forced to make.
The sporting life of Paul McGrath, who endured a permanent fight against injuries to fashion a long career at Manchester United and Aston Villa, has proved an inspiration to King in his own tortured moments when he has been sidelined.
King has had Spurs' physio Nathan Gardiner for company in those dark hours, and such is his debt to the man who even joined him at England's altitude acclimatisation camp in Austria, that he gave him his shirt as a gesture of thanks after the recent Wembley victory against Mexico, in which he scored.
And he is also happy to take any risk on future problems with his knee if it means he can play a part in England's attempt to win the World Cup before getting in shape for the start of Spurs' Champions League campaign.
"Your career is short and I am trying to get as much as I can out of the game. No-one can know when their time in football is up," said King.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has marvelled constantly at King's almost freakish ability to produce performances at the highest level despite his lack of serious training. I saw him play superbly at Old Trafford and Eastlands in the closing stages of the season, performances of the calibre that justified Capello's willingness to let the prospect of having such a high-class operator in his squad outweigh fears that he may break down in South Africa.
King's mental strength, demonstrated by his determination to play despite injury problems that would have worn down less resolute characters, was also high on a list of attributes that impressed Capello.
As King detailed how he has kept his career going and his plans to continue, he was quizzed about his heavily-tattooed left arm. It emerged he has left space for another that will be crafted after the World Cup.
If England lift the trophy it is a safe bet King will celebrate it with his latest tattoo - and by re-enacting the triumph with son Coby in the garden.