For some, the end of Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup also sent a blast across the bows of English hopes of winning the trophy. One of the squads truly great players being forced out simply weakens the side is the consensus, but me I’m not so disillusioned by the news. Yes it’s a blow and I feel dreadfully sorry for Ferdinand, but thankfully, England have something as good as to fall back on. Ledley King.
None of the waling from this England fan, no panic, no fear, no lack of conviction because I have the pleasure of watching King on a regular basis. He is my favourite Tottenham player in recent memory, a product of the Tottenham Hotspur youth system, a footballing diamond. Don’t give me the nonsense about his knee. King on one leg is better than most central defenders in Europe. Capello knows this, it’s why he’s wanted him as part of the squad since he took over as England manager. He knows how good Ledley King is and he knows he makes England stronger.
King is a freak of nature, the likes of which I’ve only ever come across once before in the form of the Irish colossus, Paul McGrath. Yet what a player he is, comfortable on the ball, strong in the air, dangerous at set pieces. Like McGrath before him, chronic knee problems curtail his training to a bare minimum. Yet there is, playing at the back for Spurs, slotting seamlessly back in. The club have had to tailor the tactics to suit him, fit the team around him, when his knee allows it, he plays. In a World Cup competition, the break between games gives him ample recovery time.
Yet, for all Kings problems, he looks after himself far better off the pitch than McGrath did. If I could ever recommend a book about football, Paul McGrath’s autobiography would be it. It’s frightening he was able to play with damaged knees, never mind as a chronic alcoholic as well. King, Carling Cup winning celebrations apart, tends to keep himself in good condition. He has to, he needs to, his body can’t be allowed to slip away from the conditioning he uses in his training.
People forget back in Euro 2004, King came in for the injured John Terry for his competitive England debut against France and was immense. He then played as a substitute in midfield against Croatia and calmed the team down. He was a shoe in for the 2006 World Cup until a metatasal injury ruled him out of the tournament. Then his injury problems began and here we are 4 years later facing the fact that King will be playing.
With only 68 league appearances since 2006, it is nothing short of amazing that he is here, ready to put his body on the line for his country when it needs him. Do not underestimate Ledley King or suspect him to be a weak spot in the English defence. He only needs to play against USA and Algeria and help England try and gain maximum points. 6 points there will be enough to see him rested against Slovakia and saved for the second round game. The way the tournament has fallen, he could effectively play one game every 5 or 6 days, just enough recovery time and play every match bar the 3rd group game.
Yet, in Tottenham’s final 3 matches, he started all 3 in 8 days. The first time he had done so in nearly 3 years and that alone stands as a testament to the man. No training, no tactical practice, he simply keeps fit and plays, it’s an astounding achievement.England have only lost one competitive game when he’s played out of 12 and he can partner John Terry without breaking a sweat. That kind of record speaks for itself, great players can slot in as when required and there is no doubt that King is indeed a great player.