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King's World Cup sacrifices

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Phil McNulty | 14:45 UK time, Sunday, 6 June 2010

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.

King in training at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex
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.

Ledley King, England press conference
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.

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  • Comment number 1.

    if king can stay fit i think you will be better off with him rather than rio!

  • Comment number 2.

    Now that the dust has settled and i've had the chance to get over the initial dissapointment of Rio's injury , i feel in Ledley King we have a ready made world class replacement,and should Ledley play in all of our games at the tournament,we need not worry 1 bit! Some people might argue that Ledley deserved to be in the first 11 anyway, and how can anyone argue with that? Ferdinand is quicker than Ledley, that we will miss, but Ledley is as good if not better defensively.

    He finished the season with spurs playing 2/3 times a week and playing at a very high standard. If he can reproduce the same form & fitness at the world cup, we still have every chance of winning this world cup. Ledley needs to stay fit though, because im not confident in any of our other replacements. Carragher is a shadow of his former self, Upson has had a difficult and largely dissapointing season and Dawson is untested at this level.

    Ledleys knees, please hold up!

  • Comment number 3.

    Ledley is a true great. Even through all the injuries, to remain upbeat about your career is simply amazing, to come back like he has is a feat just short of miraculous. Good luck to him and I hope he manages some champions league games next year too.

  • Comment number 4.

    Some of these comments on here are laughable. "A blessing in disguise," "Rio is past it," "Dawson or Carragher will do just as good a job as Ferdinand"
    This is a really major blow, not only are we losing one of the best centre halves in the world [yes he still is despite his injury problems] but we are losing a guy with vast international experience who performs on stages such as these. Best player at '02 and '06 in which we didnt concede a goal with him on the pitch during '06. Even though that was 4 years ago he remains a brilliant centre half which opposition forwards fear. Only King is able to adequately replace him but with his well publicised knee problems, at some stage we are going to have to rely on Dawson/Carragher/Upson to partner the much overrated Mr Terry. These 3 arent in the same league as Rio and a handful of good games for Tottenham doesnt mean you can cut it on a world cup stage [Dawson]and as for Upson, oh dear!
    Our slim chances have diminished further with this but I will still get behind them as much as I can and hope we can have a successful tournament.
    As an aside I think we have got to go with a 4-5-1 and get Gerrard in behind Rooney and 2 wide men in Lennon and Cole. Gerrard wasted out on left, we have to get one of our best players involved in the game more - he has to play central!
    Come on England!

  • Comment number 5.

    Having a King that knows how to manage his injury-plagued knee is not only extremely important for our chances now Rio is gone, it is also inspirational. Such desire to play should be applauded. Hope he does fantastically.

  • Comment number 6.

    Posted on the wrong blog...sorry!

  • Comment number 7.

    as a spurs fan, i am always happy when he plays

    however, i hate to think how he will manage his life in 10 years time

  • Comment number 8.

    I think now that Ledley King is more than likely going to be 1 of our first choice 2 centre backs I feel it is even more important to have qualified before the Slovenia game.

    If that goal is achieved after the Algeria game, England will be able to rest King against Slovenia and therefore ensure that the gap between appearances (assuming we top the group) will be 6, 8, 6, 4 & 5 days which is just short of a week on average and this is not too dissimilar to the match routine King was able to play most of the season. Yes I know he played 3 games in a week towards the end of the season but lets be honest we don't want to risk our best but most fragile CB against Slovenia in the group stages due to their only being 3 days between the Slovenia and 2nd round matches.

    Also, I'd not be surprised at all if after the 60 min period England have a comfortable lead for Ledley to be substituted.

    Though like Phil, I think Ledley should be commended for his commitment especially as I think this should prove to anyone doubting it that for the majority of players that playing for England is still the pinnacle of their career.

  • Comment number 9.

    i think king will excel south africa, and given the chance so will dawson, he didnt play a few good games this season, he consistently played class. as a spurs fan im excited for the amount of tottenham players at the world cup. and thank god for no walcott(mr overated) !

  • Comment number 10.

    As a fan of the sport Football (Soccer), I honestly wait four years for this event to happen. Not only during the World Cup do you see the greatest display of talent… you see the ENTIRE world come to an abrupt halt just to watch greatness take place. The Nike commercial sums it up as good as anything. World Cup is the best time ever and even if you don’t understand the game… you still can enjoy all the chaos that surrounds it… and also the ‘The Women Of The World Cup’ as everyone country is full of beautiful women… [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    So who’s winning 2010?

  • Comment number 11.

    7 - most probably 2 knee replacements. now there's commitment to the game, well-in Ledley.

  • Comment number 12.

    A handful of good games, ShakerMT_2, from Dawson? Only if you consider 40+ games to be a handful.

    Dawson was the form Centre Back in the Premiership this season past and probably would be winner of the most improved player award if one existed.

    He should have definitely been in the squad ahead of Carragher and Upson on merit and while Ferdinand is an excellent player he has had neither a good nor an injury free season, this year past.

  • Comment number 13.

    5. At 00:21am on 07 Jun 2010, ManUnitedRooney10 wrote:
    Having a King that knows how to manage his injury-plagued knee is not only extremely important for our chances now Rio is gone, it is also inspirational. Such desire to play should be applauded. Hope he does fantastically.

    Spot on! and while I still feel we'll miss Rio, it has to be said that atleast its in an area of the pitch where we have replacements playing to a very high standard. It could be a very different story if we were talking about Rooney being replaced due to injury!

  • Comment number 14.

    If England progress through the tournament and Ledley manages to play throughout it you couldn't ask for a more composed centre back.

  • Comment number 15.

    Once again I have to say I do not subscribe to the theory that Rio Ferdinand's injury is some sort of blessing in disguise. How can that be? He is one of the most experienced members of the squad and a class player when fit. Ferdinand is also very popular with everyone in the England camp.

    As for Ledley King, I saw him a few times towards the end of last season and he excelled. He told us yesterday that his knee injury has not worsened in recent times, which must be regarded as a good thing and makes it easier to manage.

    He will still form a very good partnership with John Terry, although if I was to express a reservation from a playing perspective it would be that they are not the most mobile of pairings and I would worry against high-quality forwards with pace.

    Is King the right man to replace Ferdinand? And if not who would you prefer?

  • Comment number 16.

    King is the most over documented 'injured' player since Paul McGrath. Ferdinand is crocked, as in Finished. Stunned there is not a blog I can find about the Passing of it really with a whimper he snook away?

  • Comment number 17.

    I just hope King plays a whole lot better than he did against Mexico - I'm sure he's more than capable of it, but it was very worrying watching him get turned inside out so frequently (not to mention his poor positioning and lack of pace in that game).

    I think England are one of the best attacking sides out there (just look at the number of goals we scored in qualifying) but I have serious concerns over the defence and in goal. Got a feeling this tournament is going to be a bumpy ride - just hope it's a long one!

  • Comment number 18.

    Before anyone retaliates with me "being jealous that my country are not playing this summer" don’t bother. I have heard it all before.

    I am making a genuine point and am not here to start any aggro - don’t you think many of you are a little bit deluded about your chances this year?

    The way some of you talk its like you are certain finalists…

    "Now that the dust has settled and I've had the chance to get over the initial disappointment of Rio's injury , I feel in Lesley King we have a ready made world class replacement, and should Lesley play in all of our games at the tournament, we need not worry 1 bit! Some people might argue that Lesley deserved to be in the first 11 anyway, and how can anyone argue with that? Ferdinand is quicker than Lesley, that we will miss, but Lesley is as good if not better defensively.

    He finished the season with spurs playing 2/3 times a week and playing at a very high standard. If he can reproduce the same form & fitness at the world cup, we still have every chance of winning this world cup"

    I really struggle to understand this mentality. Why do you torture yourself every major competition with this massive expectancy? Surely history would tell you that its unlikely that England will progress past the semi finals.

    The 'disappointments' of the past would not be disappointments if you lowered your expectations. This frenzy of expectation does nothing to help your team and actually prevents you from enjoying the world cup experience.

    You are relying on players to be able to complete 90 mins and you think you are going to win it?? Reality check required.

  • Comment number 19.

    Kings ability to read the game, his tackling, composure on the ball, his vision to pick out a pass, ability to head the ball, attack from corners, not to mention his pace despite his knee problems are all attributes that put him in the world class category.

    He is a natural leader, and between him & Terry, will have the back four and midfield organised to good effect.

  • Comment number 20.

    No. 4 Shaker - good to see you are getting behind England in South Africa.

    Trouble is that it's sarcastic, pathetic comments like yours about Upson that make 'true' England followers despair.

    I don't think anyone would dispute that King is the better defender, but I hope you followed the qualifying stages when you would have seen Upson not put a foot wrong. His only error has been his slip on the Wembley 'turf' in the Friendly against Egypt. Perhaps you don't follow England closely enough though, eh?

  • Comment number 21.

    I dont know were this England already have a world class replacement is coming from? based on what? I rate King but he obviously has not played enough games at the top level, champions league or internationals for people to make such comments. He would probably be my choice to replace Ferdinand but does he read the game well enough or is he mobile enough to keep the worlds best strikers quiet? Englands defending would be a worry even with Ferdinand as for me they lose possession to easily. Seems strange that both King and Carragher seem to have gone ahead of Upson and yet neither have been used alongside Terry? Surely defending is all about partneships and King is right to point out both him and Terry are good talkers but is playing alongside somebody in training the best preperation for a World Cup, especially as were told that Capello leaves nothing untouched when preparing his teams.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ferdinand is quicker than Ledley
    I would very much doubt that. Watch this and tell me Ferdinand would have got there!

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 23.

    The reason most people feel that this is a blessing in disguise is that is happened now and not 50 mins into the USA game. If that had happened we would not have been able to call up a replacement player.

  • Comment number 24.

    They took my link! Search Ledley king on the site that posts videos and look at the tackle on Robben.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm convinced Capello had Ferdinand and King down as his preferred first choice. Both play with a natural rhythm that encompasses reading the game and understanding the 'plays' before diving in. Terry worries me as being another stopper a la Butcher - albeit a useful set-play attacking centre back. I'm not questioning his commitment nor passion but he's not the quickest or best reader of the game. Hence, two intelligent players with equal talent and understanding for whats required on the World Cup stage would surely have been on Capello's mind...

  • Comment number 26.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 27.

    Ledly will be crocked by the end of the group stages, i'm sure of it, I worry for all his qualities he is too much of a risk. I would like to see Matthew Upson along side Terry. I also really hope Barry stays fit otherwise Capello will look like a right plum with him sayimg he wont take unfit players. I'm no doubt gonna be proved wrong and hope I am but i was slightly dissapointed with the final 23, if I was a left back playing against Enland I would have breathed a sigh of relief when i saw their squad.

  • Comment number 28.

    #18 AScottishGooner

    "The 'disappointments' of the past would not be disappointments if you lowered your expectations. This frenzy of expectation does nothing to help your team and actually prevents you from enjoying the world cup experience."

    How can you speak for other people like this? How do you know that English supporters don't enjoy the World Cup? I do. The 'disappointment' is all part of it. If I didn't have any expectations then the drama and emotions wouldn't run so high. Your comment is so arrogant it hurts.

    Back to the topic at hand, King is a great defender with good positional sense but I think it's strange to say that we'll lack mobility with him playing instead of Ferdinand. Rio has been laboured this season and was being turned all too often when he did play. I think what we will miss is his commanding presence in the air and his calm distribution from the back.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm not concerned about Ledley King in the slightest, i think he will do a very good job for us at the world cup. At this level we have taken a squad of quality and form players who deserve to be there (with the exception of Carrick)- Huddlestone should have been there in my opinion.

    This team is not one player or position, or 11 players for that matter it is the strength and depth and cohesion of the squad that prevail.

    Italy won it last time, not because they had the best squad but they had the biggest heart and they all played their part and put their piece of the Jigsaw in place.

    Terry, Ledley, Dawson, Carra & Upson (to a lesser extent)are all good enough at this level.

    Lets move on from this partnership issue and start talking up our team.

  • Comment number 30.

    17. At 08:25am on 07 Jun 2010, Jake Hadlee wrote:

    I just hope King plays a whole lot better than he did against Mexico - I'm sure he's more than capable of it, but it was very worrying watching him get turned inside out so frequently (not to mention his poor positioning and lack of pace in that game).


    Ledley did, quite honestly and frankly, admit that he'd wrongly remembered International football being played at a slower pace than the Premiership and was caught off-guard in the first half against Mexico. I have faith he'll be more prepared next time out.

    I'm not sure what you mean by lack of pace though as the only time he was required to stretch his legs in that game that I remember, he had ample. I get the impression that people assume King is slow, based on his knee problems, but I've rarely seen anyone best him for pace.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm not sure how anyone can argue that it's not a blessing in disguise that Rio was injured. I'm a huge admirer of his but his body is not up to the task, hasn't been all season. He needs the summer to rest and get his body sorted.

    The blessing is that it happened before Friday and that Dawson could step in as cover.

  • Comment number 32.

    It will be interesting to see how England do in their match today against the 'Platinum Stars'. Let's hope no one else gets 'crocked'. Hopefully we will get an idea of how Capello is going to set up the team for the USA game. I would like to see Cole on the left, Lennon on the right and Gerrard playing just behind Rooney. King is a good replacement for Rio and we have adequate cover in Dawson and Carragher. It's Terry and Johnson that gives me most concern defensively.

  • Comment number 33.

    agree with Steve #27 about playing Upson along with the group games at least. Upson should be able to handle the U.S, Algeria and Slovenia and if not (no disrespect to those sides) we really should be worried! The 'Fellowship' between the pair did okay in the qualifying games. If the 'Two Towers' do okay early doors stick with'em, if not then bring on 'The Return of The King'. Upson's not Gollum.
    Aside from that, Ledley's knees can't be that bad if he still manages to play elite level football so fixating on them will just make the defense lose focus. Have confidence that your centre-backs at least can make a challenge or we'll end up with 'Maradona' style goals with players waltzing through the back line without being on the receiving end of a single tackle.

  • Comment number 34.

    15. At 08:07am on 07 Jun 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    Once again I have to say I do not subscribe to the theory that Rio Ferdinand's injury is some sort of blessing in disguise. How can that be? He is one of the most experienced members of the squad and a class player when fit. Ferdinand is also very popular with everyone in the England camp.

    As for Ledley King, I saw him a few times towards the end of last season and he excelled. He told us yesterday that his knee injury has not worsened in recent times, which must be regarded as a good thing and makes it easier to manage.

    He will still form a very good partnership with John Terry, although if I was to express a reservation from a playing perspective it would be that they are not the most mobile of pairings and I would worry against high-quality forwards with pace.

    Is King the right man to replace Ferdinand? And if not who would you prefer?

    Complain about this comment

    Regarding your first paragraph Phil, it's a blessing in disguise because Ferdinand has been struggling with various injuries all year long, how many games has he played this season - less than King. There are lots of points about how King can't play 3 matches on the bounce - when was the last time Ferdinand did? I suspect that if it hadn't have been this injury Ferdinand would have picked up another one during the tournament, probably with his problematic back. So it's a blessing in that it's happened now before the tournament's started so that we can call up a replacement. It's a blessing it's happened now rather than in a game when we would have had to use a sub or worse he could have gone down when an opponent was otherwise through on goal. You also say that he's class when fit, but the fact is he isn't fit. He maybe experienced and popular in the camp, but so's Beckham and he'll still be part of it from the side.

    You also then say that you'd be a bit worried as him and Terry are not the most mobile of pairings - well Upson, Carragher and Dawson are hardly lightning quick either and I'd actually say King's faster than them all.

  • Comment number 35.

    I believe that having Ledley King in the starting lineup will improve our chances of winning the World Cup.

    Do all the doubters, Spurs conceded fewer goals at home last season than Chelsea did.

  • Comment number 36.

    If someone had asked me a year ago (not that anyone would have), I would've said Rio could not be replaced.

    However, this season he has been non existent - and with King's return to form and, as far as he can get to, full fitness, I am not concerned one bit.

    Two points I have made on here before, and would like to make again :

    Firstly - King's "awful" first half performance against Mexico. Watch it back. Ledley was horrendously exposed by a wandering Rio and on many occasions was actually Englands saviour (right place, right time) - once Rio was replaced with Carragher England were far stronger and disciplined at the back.

    Secondly - England will lack pace without Rio. This is the biggest myth of all. When both players were fully fit in there day, King was faster than Rio - FACT! (as per previous past, find the video of his tackle on Robben) - and even with his knees he faster than Rio is now - just look at what Bellamy did to Rio at Old Trafford this season, running with the ball too.

    I thank you.

  • Comment number 37.

    Personally I worry a little following the performances of our defenders against Mexico and Japan, I know you can't read too much into these but their our only mark of form internationally. During the Mexico game, the fast strikers turned the two centre backs with a little too much ease for me to be comfortable going into a World Cup. I think Rio will be missed, but I think King will be a solid replacement for him and play pretty much as well as Rio would have. None of our centre backs have had a great season, with the exception of King and Dawson (although I don't personally rate Dawson, I feel he was made to look good by King playing brilliantly), so whoever starts is going to have a challenge on their hands.

    Johnson I also worry about, if he wants to be a right winger then let him, but his positional play will get us into trouble against the better teams. The same could be applied to A. Cole as well, although I think he reads the game better.

    On a side note, I feel like the only person who doesn't feel 'inspired' by King. He is trying to add some longevity to a job that pays a ridiculous amount of money, that's not inspirational, that's smart. If you had a job that paid tens of thousands of pounds a week, wouldn't you do what you could to be paid for as long as possible?

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil, I too don't subscribe to the 'blessing in disguise' theory except in one way: Dawson should always have been in the squad. Not in Rio's place, but in Upson's place - I still can't fathom the logic that put Upson on the plane and Dawson on stand by. Upson hasn't been up to scratch at all this season, while Dawson has been outstanding.

    King and Terry have to start, surely. The question for me is who comes in should either of them be unavailable. Carragher? Dawson? Upson? For me, it would be Dawson every time.

  • Comment number 39.

    As a neutral, I do think that England have a good chance this year. They have been fortunate with the draw and should have an easy ride to the quarter-finals, and from then on its anybodys tournament. England have are a good attacking team that score lots of goals, but I do think that defensively England are fragile. If they can shore up the defence and if king brings his spurs form with him, England have a very good chance.

  • Comment number 40.

    #18 - I completely agree with your comments mate. Im Welsh and as Wales no no representation i am following England, and actually want them to win something.

    The most annoying thing about all of this expectations from people is that you feel its your god given right to be in the final. I dont think England have enough World Class players in their squad, there are a few good/international class players but not many. You have a fantastic league filled with foreigners, and as a result your own players dont seem to develop......

    Anyways good luck and have a great time guys.

  • Comment number 41.

    # 28 Brian

    How can you speak for other people like this? How do you know that English supporters don't enjoy the World Cup? I do. The 'disappointment' is all part of it. If I didn't have any expectations then the drama and emotions wouldn't run so high. Your comment is so arrogant it hurts.


    I didnt mean to sound arrogant mate. But I take your point.

    Can you tell me why English people / media pile such huge pressure on the team to win major tournaments?

    It seems to be the same old story - Huge expectation, Bitter disappointment, someone (usually an individual) gets the blame.

    (And this is when I feel that English fans can no longer enjoy the tournament, after England go out - but I may be wrong about that)

    I cant see it being any different this time round, especially now with the injury situation.


  • Comment number 42.

    Re 21:

    "I rate King but he obviously has not played enough games at the top level, champions league or internationals for people to make such comments."

    No offence mate, but this is rubbish. The guy's been top drawer for years. The only reason this has been missed is because the media only rate players who play for the 'Big Four'. Journalists would have been salavating about his performances three years ago if he was wearing a Man United shirt.

    Also, in relation to Mexico, the guy got turned twice - big deal. He was much improved second half and he arguably had a better game than Ferdinand had against Mexico or Japan.

  • Comment number 43.

    Our media pile pressure on anyone for anything, because it sells newspapers, so I think its less expectation and more about sales personally. I'd also be intrigued to see if papers from countries across the world have the same attitude towards their teams. As an England fan, I don't expect us win the world cup, but I hope that we do and its an important distinction. The same goes for league football, I didn't expect Villa to get a champions league place, but for a while I thought we might, and it added to the cocktail of emotions that football provides.

    I agree that King has been a great player for years, but the point the guy was making is that it hasn't been tested to a large degree on the top challenges of football, hence the champs league and (because of his injury problems) regular international football. Although I'm sure when he is tested next season he will excel. He also got turned more than twice against Mexico, the entire defence looked shaky and like they could get split at any moment. Its not a go a King, but at the back 4. He certainly had a better game then Baines.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great blog

    King has bags of class and is now crucial to England's chances. As I've said before on these boards, all the other centre halves - Terry/Carragher/Upson/Dawson - are similar types, and ideally you need a partnership with two different sorts of players.

    His injury problems echo those of Paul McGrath, who also couldn't train. Similar types of players too. Though I am sure King is much more disciplined off the pitch!

  • Comment number 45.

    Don't forget that no one gave Danny Mills a chance of adequately covering Gary Neville in 2002, but he played every minute of the England games. Ledley will be substituted in the 2nd half of most games (Carra coming on IMHO), but he should start games alongside Terry.

  • Comment number 46.

    Yes, Carragher has had a disppointing season but compared to Upson, Dawson and King, he has proven experience of playing at the highest level at Champions league against top strikers on a regular basis and dealing with the pressure of playing at this level.

    I do believe King is a top class defender though lacking in burst of acceleration though all the centre halfs seems to be similar in nature. Dawson is too inexperience and unproven at this level and Upson has a had a poor season with West Ham and no experience as well.

    Would the change in altitude affect King's injury and playing?
    I personally think England will be affected more by altitude than other teams.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think King should be commended for his attitude to the beautiful game and if any player is a role model it would be him.
    I'm glad that ledley has made it into the world cup squad and I do think he will be an integral part to the squad. Even if rio had been fit I still think King would have pressed him for a place in the starting line up.
    From looking at the final 5games spurs played this season, everyone (including myself a massive spurs fan) would have written spurs off to finishing 4th, some of kings defending against chelsea and man city was simply superb! As has been previously mentioned if we can qualify before playing slovenia he'll play with a reasonable break inbetween.
    In my field of working in the NHS its amazing the King is still able to play at such a high level and if it weren't for the chronicity of his knee's he would have left spurs 2-3 seasons ago.
    ps... I'm also really pleased to see 5spurs players make the england squad :-)

  • Comment number 48.

    How can anyone on this blog even countence the idea of playing someone is patenly is not fit?

    If King plays today in the warm up game you risk him not playing on Saturday. By now Capello should be putting out his XI for the US.

    If you rest him for the US then, he misses out on valuable pitch time in a real game situation and then if he gets injured in the game then further disruption to the team. This means Dawson/Upson/Carragher come in with no game time. Just give the most fit player the shirt and let him have some security about his place

    Sure you can't plan for accidents or suspensions or bad luck, but as normal an England Manager is pushing their luck by playing an unfit player......

    What if King does make it through the group stages can he stand up to extra time? Yes only 30 minutes but I for one am only substituing a centre half for injury or going for broke to save a game. That 30 minutes saps the life out of you really want a goal to come from a centre half is struggling with the game?

    It makes no sense, the world cup is not about rotation it is about putting the best and fittest players out to win the game.

    I suggest that we will be here debating the logic to play King, after either he breaks down and we have replace him, disrupting the team

    We can do very well at these finals put we only risk that by not putting the fittest team out........

  • Comment number 49.

    37 Heracles83

    You don't rate Dawson. He was voted player of the year by Spurs fans this year. In the past he has struggled when Ledley has not been alongside him. This year however he has played just as many games with Seb Bassong alongside him. Ledley is the better defender but Daws has come of age. Even though he has no experience at international level he will do a job if need be.

    He should have been on the plane in the final 23 in the first place.

  • Comment number 50.

    Firstly bitter comment/s from ascottishgooner. Title says it all, commenting on england and a spurs ledgend.

    King is a truly gifted player any manager in football would agree and one of his strong points is his pace (don't be fooled by knee problems). I am just happy to see him in the squad and like he says he is willing to risk it all to become the best player he can be. That sort of attitude and commitment is what makes the difference. So for that reason he must be an inspiration in the england camp and i hope it rubs off on all the players, as this is a winners mentality.

  • Comment number 51.


    Player performances will always be up for debate, with two people seeing different parts from the same player. He probably has improved this season in comparison to other seasons, it's just from what I saw, he didn't impress me amazingly. The defenders next to him seemed to be playing better, but receiving less praise and personally he wouldn't of been in my 23...although saying that, he's about 4 years younger than Upson so that may have swapped them purely on an age basis.

    I'm a Villa fan, and I'm sure we'd disagree on the villa centre-halfs, but that's the joy of debate. And on the fans player of the year, fair play to Dawson for picking that up, but that doesn't mean he was the best player in the team, just that the fans were most impressed with him, and lets be honest, fans are easily swayed one way or the other.

  • Comment number 52.

    I actually agree with #41 (shame he's an arsenal fan, but there you go!) - I think the expectations of the england squad are way too high before every competition.

    I'm a massive england fan - watch every qualfying game, every friendly, and have been waiting impatiently for the world cup for what feels like decades now (luckily, spurs have kept me entertained/distracted this season)! But I've never understood the sky-high expectations placed on the team by both the media and (what seems like) the vast majority of england fans. As every tournament approaches, it does seem that people almost expect us to at least make the final. Now, we have a great squad on paper...but when was the last time England even made the semi-finals? I get a bit embarrassed when people bring up 66' in debates! Whatever the reason, we just dont seem to do it at major tournaments. We seem to lack to composure to come out on top in the big occasions. Personally, I'd be satisfied with the quarter finals and very pleased if we made it to the semi-finals in South Africa.

    We have a great team on paper, but then so do many of the squads going to S.Africa. The difference is that they tend to play like it more often than we do. Still, I'd love to be proven wrong and for us to go all the way. I just hope we dont have to endure too many penalty shoot-outs...I dont think I'll survive it if it goes to sudden death (excuse the pun)!

    With regards to the Rio Ferdinand thing...I agree with what a lot of people have said. He's had a very poor, injury plagued season. Yes, we'll miss his experience, but then that same experience doesnt seem to have equated to good performances in the premier league this year. And that's been against players like Zamora - let alone Villa and Messi. Capello keeps talking about being there on merit...and surely based on this season that would mean starting King over Rio in the first place?

  • Comment number 53.

    So glad that Capello picked Ledley! Dawson and him were the best English centre backs last season. Ledley is ball playing centre back and all the team knows his talent and that fact that Capello has let him do his normal Spurs fitness drills at the WC shows how highly Capello thinks of him!

    I do admit he did look ring rusty against Mexico but everyone was so nervous because it was the lottery for places, but now the squad is in SA I think we will look more settled. Ledley is such a good reader of the game as well as being able to do the ugly stuff too. Very unlucky for Rio but I think we have an excellent replacement in Ledley!

  • Comment number 54.

    Thing is, Ledley King could well be the best defender in England. If he can produce such phenomenal performances with a knee injury and virtually no training, imagine what he'd be like without a knee injury.

  • Comment number 55.

    AScottishGooner said: "Can you tell me why English people / media pile such huge pressure on the team to win major tournaments?

    It seems to be the same old story - Huge expectation, Bitter disappointment, someone (usually an individual) gets the blame."

    I honestly don't think it's different anywhere. My wife is Dutch and just come back from Holland. She says the football tournament is even more prominent there. And as a Scot, do you really think that they're won't be crazy amounts of hype when Scotland get to the finals again. You know there will.

    Having said all that, I agree that it is way over the top, and living in Scotland as I do, the English commentators do my heed in too;-)

  • Comment number 56.

    King is probably, along with Rio, the best CB available to England. I think it's as simple as that. My ideal England line up would have had Rio and King starting together and Terry warming the bench, but with his injury problems I could understand why King was not regarded as the automatic first choice. With Rio gone I think we're going to be vaulnerable against pace as neither Terry nor King are particularly mobile CBs, although as Tony Adams proved throughout a distinguished career pace is no substitute for positional sense! (Yes, Carlton Palmer. I'm talking about you)

    My other big concern with King is: Part of the reason he can deliver such high class performances for Spurs without much training is his understanding with his partner Dawson. Learning to play together is a problem for ANY international team, and I can forsee issues with a centre back pairing that barely gets any time to learn each other's ways. Would this be an arguement for Dawson coming in partner King? I don't think so, really. Dawson has had a great season and deserves the call he got after Rio's injury, but I don't honestly think he is a truly world class operator. I think this will be highlighted particularly when Spurs hit the CL next year. Suddenly Dawson is going to be against the best in the world more then once or twice a season, and I've a feeling Spur's success in qualifying this season may result in the end of Dawson's future England prospects...

  • Comment number 57.

    To all those people saying King is slow, you are in for a shock. I have never seen him done for pace.

  • Comment number 58.

    Oh, and regarding how badly we'll miss Rio: Yes he's had a terrible season and been injury plagued throughout, but IMOH Rio, along with Rooney and Cashley are the only players I would say could guarentee a starting berth no matter what nation they played for.

    We have alot of players who would be internationals, but if he were Brazilian would Lampard displace Kaka for a role in the starting 11? I somehow doubt it. If his name was Aaron van der Lennon would Holland sacrifice the trickery and finishing of Robben for Lennon's headless-chicken-pacey-no-end-product approach? I think not. (N.B. although he's not in the squad, that bit would apply to Walcott equally as well. Or van der Walcott) If he were Algerian would Heskey make the first team? Not even the squad.

  • Comment number 59.

    In connection with the first photograph on the blog... Does anyone else think that insects will play a big part in this competition? This is Africa after all and you see lots of insects on programmes such as Red Nose Day and Wild at Heart.

    Now I'm not sure whether Capello intentionally allowed that insect to play a role in training but I do know that this factor can decide who ultimately walks away with the trophy.

  • Comment number 60.

    Re 41.
    Back at you Scotty.
    It's the same mentality that has the Scots, Welsh and Irish playing out of their skins when up against The English but falling flat against other less illustrious opponents. It always seems to me that there is a huge inferiority complex from the provinces - presumably from past misdeeds in our history. Just mention 1967 and a chorus of Jim Baxter groupies will appear from nowhere.
    I have jock mates who wont join me for a pint this World Cup and I am a really moderate fan. I promise I don't crow much, how can I with our track record. Scots turning down a drink - serious stuff.

  • Comment number 61.

    Welshman in peace

    To be honest, it's not going to make that much difference. Ferdinand is a cool head and likes to bring the ball out but King can do the same job.

    It won't cost you the World Cup. Something else will.

  • Comment number 62.

    I cant believe people thinking Ledley is slow!! they guy was a sub 11second 100m runner in his school days & i doubt hes lost that much pace since then. One thing im sure of is that he is definatley quicker than Rio.

  • Comment number 63.

    one of the biggest challenges for the England team is getting the players to gel once they are together, trying to recreate their club form for their country - playing as a team rather than a collection of the best individual players. Gerrard needs his Macherano or Alonso, Lampard his Makelele or Essien. I can remember back in the early 90s wondering why England didn't pick the Bruce, Pallister partnership for England when they were the foundation of an inpenetrable Man U defense at the time along with Paul Parker. The same goes for picking the Arsenal back 4 of the Dixon, Bould, Adams and winterburn for England they would have hit the ground running!
    The idea of picking club combinations for the national team makes a lot of sense for me. Dare I suggest that Dawson and King should be starting centre halves for the same reasons as they have both had outstanding seasons at Spurs and clearly know each others game inside out...
    I shall await the onslaught.

  • Comment number 64.

    I know the knee is one of the most complicated joints in the body, but this is 2010, surely medical science has come far enough to allow a cartilage transplant?

    Someone with a medical bent will have to explain to me why it isn't possible for him to have cartilage put into the places where he hasn't got any. I can remember several famous footballers who have had their knees hacked open on the operating table, and recovered. Surely this isn't much more complicated?

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil - Much as I admire Ledley Kings skills as a CB, I am disappointed in Capello's decision to risk him in the WC. Having said that, obviously King may not be first choice to start with John Terry, but alot of people are begining to think that will be the case.
    There is an arguement that if King is that important, then it would make more sense to play Dawson alongside him as he is more use to King's game and when you have a player carrying somekind of injury/weakness, then having someone who plays alongside them on a regular basis, who will know instinctively when to cover, advance, etc. could be crucial. The World Cup is the most combative arena in international football and you can bet your mortgage on the fact that the coaches of all England's opponents are at this very minute looking at a series of Spurs videos to see where King's weakness is most evident - Ohhh!.. sends a chill down my spine even thinking this, but unfortunately we shall have a 'hostage to fortune', one of our own making!

  • Comment number 66.

    Ledley King is in my opinion, the best central defender in the squad... He is strong at the back, tackles with intent, however is sensible, heads the ball well and his positional play is second to none! If I were Fabio Capello, I wouldn't have taken Rio Ferdinand, let along given him the armband, and I feel his absence will help the side rather than hinder it!

    From suffering with knees problems for the last nine months I can only sympathise with Ledley. It's terrible how such a talented man can miss so much through no fault of his own. I wish Ledley the best with the rest of his career, and both him and the rest of the squad good luck with the coming fixtures...

  • Comment number 67.

    I dont have a crystal ball and see into the future like most people, but i have a feeling that King won't last the full duration of the world cup. Other teams are smart and will target his injury. Look at what Bayern were trying to do to Rooney.

  • Comment number 68.

    @55 - Sadly, speaking as a Scot, our expectations these days are so pitifully low that it almost defeats the purpose of qualifying. England fans probably have more of an emotional roller-coaster with much more excitement going into the tournament. So, it's all the sweeter for most Scots when you get dumped out of the Cup and the bitter recriminations start. Come on, Anyone-but-England!

  • Comment number 69.

    Lots of people here making comments about King being quick, which i have no reason to doubt but we should also remember with the real top quality centrebacks is, the first three yards are in the head with reading the game being more important in international football. Franco Barresi was not the quickest but he was probably the best centreback of the last thirty years.

  • Comment number 70.

    Respect to the King. His commitment should be applauded and his willingness to be involved in any way and at any cost must surely of worked in his favour.

    He is clearly making decisions based on what he stands to gain, and World Cups are the pinnacle of any footballers career.

    Interesting to see he takes inspiration from McGrath and I see them as similar in the way they play the game - I wonder if King has cultivated this at all knowing how long McGrath was able to play at the top level despite his knees. And as Mcgrath went on into his late 30's King might have many years ahead of him despite almost being written off about a year ago, just hope his life off the pitch is not as chaotic.

  • Comment number 71.

    It may sound harsh but I don't think that Ledley King should be starting the game against the USA. If we are judging by domestic form, then it should be King's fellow Spurs centre-back Michael Dawson in the starting-XI, not King.

    I am fully aware that King suffers from a chronic knee problem but if Fabio Capello opts to stick with him for the duration of the three group games (in a relatively comfortable looking group), then that would mean pondering whether or not to play King against the so-called "better" teams in the latter stages of the tournament.(Can King honestly rack up several games in quick succession?)

    If I was in Capello's boots, I would rest King until the third group game and then recall him to the starting line-up. Dawson is more than capable of doing a god job, should he be called upon. Capello doesn't need to sacrifice King in the opening games of the tournament. It would make more sense playing King than Dawson (devoid of international caps/experience) against the so-called "big-boys". The England gaffer shouldn't be playing with fire in a tournament of this magnitude.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hey Brits don't forget 1776! Go USA!

  • Comment number 73.

    King...and England...will be fine.. As a yank with Spurs loyalty...England is prime for success...and a season of Spurs success for 5 players will help..Now I will root for the US, but I'll be at a British pub in Naples and be cheering even if my country is.."DeFoe'd"

  • Comment number 74.

    dougd22 You are entitled to your opinion but care to name the big champions league games and international matches King has played in? Regarding the Mexico game you mentioned Kings performance in this game saying big deal he got turned twice? Well get turned twice against a decent striker who can finish and good night. Also you say King has been top notch for years apart from last season i would doubt King has played more than 50 games in the previous 5 seasons. I would play King now Ferdinand is injured but imo he is simply the best of a average bunch of centrebacks.

  • Comment number 75.

    Is it have a go at Rooney day, the ref justs wants publicity. We should look at why Capello hasn't gone 4-3-3!!!!!!! James, Johnson, King, Terry, A Cole, Carrick (as Barry's not fit) Gerard, Lampard, Lennon, Rooney, J Cole, giving us flexibility to switch to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. This would allow Gerard and Lampard to play like they play for their clubs, and Rooney has shone for United in this formation!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    It's only been in the last couple of days that I've become aware of the extent of Ledley King's injury problems. It may sound funny, that you've got a hole in your knee, but I can absolutely vouch for how serious it is and how it can affect your life on a day-to-day basis (should have a knee replacement but much too young, advised not to stand for long periods, kneel or even run for a bus), so Ledley has my utmost admiration that he is putting his body on the line to play for England in the World Cup.

  • Comment number 77.

    @A Scottish Gooner (what a combination!). It wouldn't be World Cup time if we didn't get all over-excited and then crushingly disappointed to go out in the Quarters on penalties! And who is this "Lesley King"?


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