While Tottenham fans wake up to the feeling of a very good night, I sit here reading about Harry Redknapp’s praise for Ledley King. Rightly so. Last night’s north London derby helped Spurs go to within a point of fourth placed Manchester City and all but ended their rivals challenge for the Premier League title. King was a rock at the back for Spurs and showed just what he can do when called upon. It was the performance of King that many England fans will have been eager to see. Redknapp has of course expressed his opinion that, if fit, King could well be an important player for Fabio Capello’s side this summer. ‘If’ being the operative word in that sentence. Last night’s game was the 10th time this season that King has started and managed to complete a match. He may be a top defender but would he really be worth the risk at a tournament where England will be hoping to replicate the success of 66?
Every team has important players. For England you could argue a case for Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand or maybe Ashley Cole given the lack of reinforcement in that position. These are players who, if only half fit, would still be taken to South Africa in the hope of playing some part. For me, King does not fall into that category. Even if he was fully fit, the Spurs defender would surely still be behind John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the pecking order. The centre of defence in not a position where Fabio Capello lacks quality or back up. Added to that, last night’s game propelled two other defenders into the limelight as well. Michael Dawson was again impressive and Sol Campbell was arguably the best player in a red shirt. Two candidates who have fitness on their side and, in the case of Campbell, a wealth of experience.
If Kings knee is, in the words of Redknapp ‘like a balloon’ after last night’s game, how will be manage to play any part in a tournament that provides three games in 11 days. Ok, so he may only be there for times of emergency or high importance, but if an injury crisis strikes then he would be required to play more than just once. The matter for Capello is whether he believes King is worth the risk. Is King more valuable to England with his injury problems than a player who will be fully fit but maybe slightly less talented? If he asks me I’d say no. International level is where the top players meet. Is King so much better than Matthew Upson, Michael Dawson or even Gary Cahill?
Capello has not showed any signs of crumbling under media pressure (unlike previous managers without mentioning names or nicknames referring to umbrellas) and I don’t think he is a huge risk taker. He has always maintained that he will take players who are fit and performing well at that time. Tottenham’s win last night means that their run in has become even more important. They have crunch fixtures in which Harry might want to use King. He might be performing well but I still hold a question mark over the fitness aspect.
If Capello takes King and he produces an outstanding performance en-route to the final, the Italian is a hero. If he takes him and he spends most of the time hobbling around the team hotel, the Italian is a fool. The question is, should he gamble on King and is he a player we want to see on the plane to South Africa?