Wednesday 21 February 2018

Kompany return harks back to memories of King

The injury problems of Vincent Kompany are less acute than King’s horribly damaged left knee. Photo credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire
The injury problems of Vincent Kompany are less acute than King’s horribly damaged left knee. Photo credit: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

Jeremy Wilson

In the final years of his Tottenham career, Ledley King's match preparation would consist of little more than a lap around the club's old Chigwell training base on a Friday morning and then a glance across the pitches at manager Harry Redknapp. "He would give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down,"says Redknapp. "And, if I got the thumbs up, I would think 'great, we will win tomorrow'."

The injury problems of Vincent Kompany are less acute than King's horribly damaged left knee but, having been sidelined for more than two of the nine years he has spent at Manchester City, you can imagine how successive managers might have had similar thoughts. Like Spurs before them, City are a different team with their defensive talisman on the pitch and there is an added comparison in Kompany's remarkable ability to perform at such a high standard after so few matches.

On Saturday, having scored his first goal in nearly two years, Kompany also gave City a rare defensive solidity in how they then contained Southampton and ultimately eased to a 3-0 win following further goals from Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero. Kompany believes that he would already be retired now at the age of 31 if he needed a large base of match fitness.

"I would have been done and dusted if I needed time to adapt," he said. "I have been lucky I can make use of a tremendous amount of experience. Where I am at physically does not matter. I know what I have to do and, as long as I can organise the people around, I can always get a performance. The main thing is self-belief and experience.

"I follow what is happening in training so I understand what needs to be done. There are ups and downs but ultimately what keeps you going is looking to the objective and knowing that the season is long. If I had to work 15 years for one moment like this I would do it."

It all leaves manager Pep Guardiola facing a huge quandary ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal and then the Manchester derby four days later against his great rival, Jose Mourinho. Could Kompany play twice in such a short space of time - or, like Redknapp with King, must the manager prioritise?

"I love the FA Cup and I love derbies," said Kompany. "It is a cliche but we have to take things game by game. We have a massive game against Arsenal and then, after that, we can reassess."

There was a similar message from Guardiola, who also revealed that he has experienced a career first over these past 10 days of his debut season in English football. Rewind to last Saturday morning and City were winless in four matches. They were out of the Champions League and 14 points adrift of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League- but, as was again the case against Southampton on Saturday, the supporters still chanted Guardiola's name.

"We did not win one game [in four] but our supporters helped us," he said.

"In Italy and Spain that does not happen. That is why I am so, so glad for the fans. For the first time in my life I have experienced that. Here I miss a little bit the pressure. In Spain, especially in Germany, the pressure is higher to the players, to the manager, to everybody. Here it is calm. The fans are always perfect. I love them."

Guardiola has won six league titles in his seven seasons as a manager and is adamant that the key for City to reach the relentless success he achieved at Barcelona and Bayern Munich is psychological.

"Sometimes when you realise you cannot lose, when you feel the pressure, the real pressure, you will be criticised and the players make a step forward," he said. "Do the players believe they cannot lose? We need time to put something in their heads and the hearts of the players. The difference is the mentality, not the quality." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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