King is one of England’s best centre halves but his career is ultimately one of what might have been. Knackered knees have left him able only to play 38 league games in his last 3 seasons. Redknapp stated that “You’d take him to a World Cup all day long. He’s that good” before adding that “He’d be available; you’re not going to weaken your team. If you’re in a semi-final and you have a suspension you can bring him in, he’s a fantastic player.” Whilst in principle I would not argue with these points, but in practise it is much more different.
King is a great player and if he came into the England side you wouldn’t weaken your team but he simply can’t train regularly and to use another Redknapp quote “It swells up after games and it normally takes seven days to recover. He rarely trains; he mostly just goes to the gym to keep himself ticking over. But not running or anything like that”. To take someone like that to a World Cup is unimaginable and quite frankly stupid.
Clearly Harry is just trying to give King a confidence boost like any good manager does but to suggest he goes to a major tournament when he’s unable to train regularly or cope with the rigours of day to day football is simply wrong. His chronic knee problem means that he can’t play more than one game in a week, something you’d be required to do at a major tournament.
On his day, King is one of the best centre halves in the Premier League and on ability alone he’d be at the World Cup without a shadow of a doubt, he’s a mix of the elegance and precision of Rio Ferdinand and the positional sense and grit of John Terry, he’s better than all of the likely understudies to Rio and Terry that will be present in South Africa and he’s more than capable of stepping in at short notice and performing well against big sides, a quality that’s invaluable at club level but at a major international tournament, to take a player who is injury prone is a massive risk and one that Capello, much unlike English managers before him, looks unlikely to indulge.
Capello has gone on record as saying that he won’t take any injured players to the World Cup no matter how special a player they are, although in clear reference to David Beckham in 2002 and Wayne Rooney in 2006, this seemingly rules out King too.
Although a known admirer of the player, King’s injury record is too big a risk to take and much like his club teammate Jonathan Woodgate, he looks likely to miss the plane due to his blighted injury record rather than anything to do with his own ability. A fit Ledley King would be a major bonus to both Spurs and England, but that’s wherein the problem lies, he hardly ever is and although a half-fit King is probably better than most alternatives, you could argue that to take an injury prone player such as King and leave out a player in great form who does train everyday and works hard at his game such as Michael Dawson, also of Spurs, is a bad message to send out.
The sort of message that you are above everybody else vying for your position, that exceptions can be made for you, that despite a record of terrible injuries you will be chosen. Whilst this message would have been present under both Sven and McClaren (had he managed us at a major tournament), it would, and quite rightly, should not be the message under Capello. It’s sad that King has been unable to add to his 19 England caps but in football there is no room for sentiment, especially at a World Cup.
Written By James McManus