Saturday 24 February 2018

Redknapp hails King’s hunger for Euro fight


Russell Kempson

LEDLEY KING will have woken up yesterday morning and eased his weary body out of bed, taking particular attention to avoid putting unnecessary weight on his aching left knee. This morning he will have repeated the painful process. As he will tomorrow ... and the next day.

King's ‘Battle of Wounded Knee’ is constant, a grim fight against the boneon- bone grinding that prevents him from training and playing more than one match a week. Yet still he dreams of performing for Tottenham on the big stage of the Champions League, perhaps even for England in the World Cup finals.

The latter objective is no fanciful notion, to judge from his calm presence in Tottenham's draw against Aston Villa in North London on Saturday. King combines the grace of Rio Ferdinand with the grit of John Terry, a leader of men whom Fabio Capello, the England manager, could rely on in a crisis.

Yet King will not play against Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday. He cannot. He might not even make Bolton at the Reebok on Sunday. The bottom line, for all the enthusing of Harry Redknapp, is could a limited-capacity King be of any use in South Africa?

Redknapp believes so. “He'd love to go to the World Cup and I think he could go,”he said. “If you lose Terry or you lose Rio, you know he's going to come in and do a job for you. If you're in a semi-final and you have a suspension, you can bring him in. Ledley is a special player.”

For now, King is looking no farther than the Champions League as Tottenham slug it out with Liverpool, Manchester City and Villa for fourth place. He is tired of just watching on television as the elite go head to head.

“Any footballer aspires to play in the Champions League,” King said. “It's something I sit down and watch, look forward to on the Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I don't think you say you should be there, you want to be there. There's a hunger for us to achieve that.”

King's rock-like defensive qualities are renowned, and he also went as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock at White Hart Lane, when only an acrobatic leap from Brad Friedel kept out his deft flick from a header by Peter Crouch – one of a series of spectacular saves by the Villa goalkeeper.

Tottenham dominated and squandered chances as the away team defended and counter-attacked, drawing chants of “boring, boring Villa” from the home fans. The jeering followed the recent criticism from Arsene Wenger, who labelled Villa a “long-ball” team. “It's quite strange,” Friedel said. “A lot of the Tottenham attacks came from long balls, 30- 40 yards long, up to Crouch, who headed them down to Jermain Defoe.”

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Bale; Bentley, Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric; Defoe, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Kaboul, Jenas, Gudjohnsen, Bassong, Kranjcar, Walker.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, L Young; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell, 88); Agbonlahor, Heskey (Carew, 22). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Delfouneso, Davies, Delph, Beye.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Man of the match: Dunne.

Attendance: 35,899.

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