Quite a while back I ridiculed Harry Redknapp for putting forward the name of Ledley King for the World Cup, surely a mistake?
Far too injury prone to be relied upon at a major tournament and in such a short space of time and with so many games in quick succession it would be madness to take a player such as King wouldn’t it?
I’ll stop with the rhetorical questions there but I have to say that I’ve revised my own opinion somewhat, and this has been prompted mainly by the form of Michael Dawson. Dawson has been a rock this season and a main reason behind of the most solid looking backline to grace White Hart Lane in nothing short of over a decade.
Rio Ferdinand missed Man Utd’s win over Spurs with a back injury once more, an injury which seriously restricts his movement, hinders his pace and has meant he has only made 12 starts all season. The injury-prone King has made 15 starts. Ferdinand’s injury problems hardly inspire me with confidence going into a major tournament such as this, he is undoubtedly England’s finest centre half, and on form is most probably the best in the world. The thing with this is, those days seem to be over and we’re placing all our eggs in Rio’s metaphorical basket.
Matthew Upson has been fairly poor of late and John Terry’s form has gone down quicker than Grant Bovey’s bank balance. The alternatives are hardly falling off the trees. Phil Jagielka has looked a shadow of the player before his injury, and whilst he should be a fixture in the England squad next season when he’s got more football under his belt, the World Cup looks to be coming too soon for him.
Ryan Shawcross and Gary Cahill both play for unfashionable clubs and are no-nonsense defenders, which in itself is a fine trait, but look nothing more than solid Premiership players and I’ve seen nothing in them which makes me think they’ll be capable of dealing with the world’s best. The notion that taking Sol Campbell all of a sudden represents a decent option, based simply off the back of a good performance against Spurs, is quite simply nonsense, and shows in itself how poor our options are and small the pool of talent is.
In most positions in the England squad, it’s all ‘what if’s’, but with Ferdinand, there is such a strong possibility he’ll be injured at some point, that a third choice would need to be ready to be called upon at any moment.
I wouldn’t take King by himself, but along with Dawson, well that’s a different proposition altogether. Dawson is immeasurably better with King alongside him and they have a good understanding at the back. As a pair, I think there’s a strong case to take them both as understudy’s to Terry and Ferdinand, and their familiarity with one another could be a bonus.
Much is made of King’s knackered knees, and they are admittedly shot. In a game of bad knee top trumps, Ledley King would probably be an 8 to Owen Hargreaves’ 10. But it’s in King’s ability to dip in and out of the Spurs side and have the mental ability to cope with one off games that remains his biggest attribute.
If managed properly, he could manage, much like Redknapp uses him and the likelihood is that he’d probably only play a game or two at most. I know I’d much rather have King at the heart of the England defence than Matthew Upson.
The 1982 and 86’ Scotland sides had a centre half partnership of Willie Miller and Alex McLeish that interim manager Alex Ferguson kept together from his days at Aberdeen because they worked so well together. Jock Stein placed them together originally because their club form was so good as a pair and they complemented each other so well, the same can be said of King and Dawson.
This came at the expense of Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen and goes some way to explaining his poor total of 26 international caps considering his talent. At the time Hansen was at the heart of an excellent Liverpool side, had won 2 European Cups, 6 league titles and an FA Cup and was widely regarded to be the finest centre half in Europe at the time. It just goes to show that sometimes a partnership is better than the sum of a talented individual, and with King and Dawson in tandem offering a good defensive shield and alternative; they represent a better option than the others around at the moment.
Written By James McManus