Much has been made about potential transfer activity in and out of White Hart Lane this month, however despite a number of other transfer headaches Harry Redknapp’s biggest decision looks to surround the club’s longest serving player.
Ledley King has been a constant injury concern for the best part of four years. A chronic knee injury has to be constantly managed by the Tottenham medical staff, King reduced to weight and pool exercises instead of regular sessions with the rest of the squad.
The extent of his fragility was highlighted during England’s unsuccessful World Cup campaign- a tournament that the player reported fit for, but was ruled out of after only 45 minutes of the team’s opening group game.
The Tottenham club captain has not played for the first team since a muscle tear ruled him out of action in mid-October, and there remains no fixed return date for the defender.
For many other players, a conundrum of this nature would be a no brainer. A fitness record like King’s, combined with the nature of his current groin injury, which may still require surgery, would suggest that Spurs will get very little from including the England international in the mandatory 25 man squad for the rest of the year.
Transfer speculation suggests that the North London club will look to further strengthen an already packed squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. If Redknapp were to decide to put faith in his captain’s powers of recovery, that could well mean forcing other players out of the exit door.
Midfielder Jamie O’Hara appears happy to be one man leaving White Hart Lane on loan, suggesting on Twitter on Monday that he is desperate for game time, but organising a deal for fringe squad players Robbie Keane and Niko Kranjcar is likely to prove more problematic.
The situation is further complicated by King’s fellow long-term injury absentee, Jonathan Woodgate. The former Leeds defender has recently stepped up his rehabilitation from a long-term groin injury that, only a few months ago, looked set to curtail his career. The defender was originally left out of Redknapp’s 25 man squad back in the summer, and will be desperate to secure a place when the squad lists are refreshed at the end of the transfer window.
Woodgate is far closer to a first team return than King, and may figure prominently in the final weeks of the season. Redknapp’s dilemma is exactly how much faith he can put in a player who hasn’t played for almost a year and an injury that he described as recently as September as “untreatable.”
The Spurs boss has made no secret of his admiration for both players and, injury permitting, views both as pivotal pieces in the Tottenham jigsaw over the coming years.
In an ideal world, both men would be included in Tottenham’s 25 man squad for the second half of the season- many other Premier League sides could get away with carrying one or two players with the hope they recover full fitness, however Spurs simply do not have that breathing space available.
With Woodgate nearing a return and King looking at an indefinite period of recovery time, Redknapp could be forgiven for having to choose between his two defensive lynchpins. Does King’s most recent injury paint a dark picture for a man that only recently celebrated his 30th birthday? Can the club continue to rely on a player who is unable to play back to back fixtures?
Should Redknapp decide his club captain is no longer fit for purpose, Woodgate’s elevation would appear a formality. Despite King’s excellent form at the tail end of the last campaign, securing the club a Champions League berth, it would appear this decade’s answer to Darren Anderton is in danger of being left behind.