King... for a day

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It was inevitable, wasn’t it?

Sunday evening’s announcement that Ledley King would be in the squad for England’s games against Slovakia and Ukraine was met with understandable surprise from fans and the press.

Everyone in English football knows that, like a latter-day Paul McGrath, King suffers from a knee injury of such severity that he is unable to train regularly for Spurs and can only play, at most, once a week.

Everyone, it seems, except Fabio Capello and the FA.

"Fabio's gone and done what!?!"

Just when they’re looking efficiently like qualifying for the next World Cup and offering (again) to host another one a few years hence, they once again descend to slapdash bungling.

It seems – understandably, given the 28-year-old’s form – that Capello wants King at his disposal. If The Sun’s Ian McGarry is to be believed (and why shouldn’t he be?), Don Fabio rates King higher than John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

We know from the all-out fun-fest that is transfer deadline day that the FA like to communicate with the outside world by fax, but surely on this occasion they could have picked up a new-fangled phone, dialled A for ‘Arry and got the inside track on King’s situation from the man who’s got the best out of him in recent months.

Instead, we witness a farce that casts Capello and the FA as ignorant amateurs, Redknapp as a bit of a sod and King as the humiliated pawn in a totally unnecessary and avoidable club-versus-country row.

Steven Gerrard had his say on the issue on Tuesday, claiming he didn’t wish to get involved in any club-versus-country row, before swiftly adding that, as an England player, he’d much rather King had stayed with the national team for the next eight days.

(This is, of course, the same Steven Gerrard who recently missed a couple of England games for an operation timed to see him fighting fit for Liverpool. Maybe this time he fancied merking Rio and Rooney after Liverpool’s win at Old Trafford last weekend.)

Fact is, the situation with King isn’t the same as any club-versus-country dispute that has come before it.

King: Caught in the crossfire

Spurs aren’t just withdrawing King on the off-chance that he might get injured in one of the two games, but in the knowledge that, had he stayed with England until next Wednesday, he wouldn’t have been able to play in their next match at Blackburn on Saturday week.

But never mind Spurs. More to the point, what benefit is there to England in calling up a player who can’t train with the rest of the squad, play in both matches (or either, if he breaks down during ill-advised training) – or ever be able to do so?

Yes, managers need to see players at close quarters in order to make decisions. But if Capello really rates King as highly as we’re told, he should do what’s best for the player: allow him to continue his progress at Spurs uninterrupted for the remainder of this season, and take another look at him when the June internationals roll round.

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