Fabio Capello last night risked a row with Harry Redknapp by controversially selecting Ledley King among his England squad to face Slovakia and Ukraine. The Tottenham defender is unable to train because of chronic knee problems and Spurs had privately expressed the wish that King would be left to concentrate on getting the most out of his club career.
Tottenham were sounded out last week about the possibility of King, 28, returning for England but made it clear to the Capello camp that they did not believe it would be in the player's best interests. Spurs officials believed that they had got their point across and that King would not be selected. However, Capello has demonstrated that he will not be swayed by club managers by going against the wishes of Redknapp and his coaching staff and calling up King as well as winger Aaron Lennon.
King has managed to put together a run of 16 games in the Spurs team since Redknapp took over in October despite constant doubts about the longevity of his career. He has been a mainstay of Spurs' resurgence and was excellent against Chelsea on Saturday. However, the international breaks give him crucial time for rest and recovery and Spurs are fearful that his involvement with the England squad will damage his fragile match fitness.
There is no way Spurs can protest about King's inclusion for the friendly against Slovakia on Saturday and the 2010 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine four days' later because if a player is fit to play for his club then the England manager is permitted to call him up. However, Spurs believe that King's circumstances – he rarely participates in full training with the squad – mean that he should be treated as a special case.
King is barely able to train between matches because his right knee swells up with fluid and even in the build-up to match days the extent of his preparation is watching the team go through set-piece drills from the sidelines so he understands his responsibilities. Yet he has proved himself such an outstanding performer, despite his disadvantages, that he has been selected to play ahead of his Spurs team-mate Jonathan Woodgate.
Capello is aware of King's many injury problems but overruled Spurs because he believes that even in a tournament situation King could be effective if he was anywhere near fit. Capello picked King for his first squad against Switzerland in February 2008 but he had to withdraw with injury. He last played for England in June 2007 in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia and has 19 caps.
The England manager has called up Lennon for the first time since he has been in charge, as well as Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Beckham, leaving him with three right-sided midfielders. Everton's Leighton Baines is in the England squad for the first time and goalkeeper Ben Foster comes in for the first time under Capello despite not playing regularly for Manchester United. Baines replaces Wayne Bridge who has a hamstring injury.
Returning to the squad are Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand – who missed the Spain friendly last month through injury and illness – while James Milner and Joe Hart stay in the under-21s having been with the senior squad last time. Aston Villa's Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Luke Young were all left out the squad this time, victims of their club's recent dip in form.
Lennon has not played for England since Steve McClaren picked him against Andorra at the Montjuic stadium in Barcelona on 28 March, 2007. Initially he failed to build on the impact he made when he was a surprise pick for the 2006 World Cup finals but the 21-year-old, who signed a new contract with Spurs last week, is back in form and made the winning goal for Luka Modric against Chelsea on Saturday.
England squad v Slovakia & Ukraine
*Goalkeepers: James (Portsmouth), Green (West Ham United), Foster (Man United)
*Defenders: Baines (Everton), Jagielka (Everton), Lescott (Everton), A Cole (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Man United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Upson (West Ham United), King (Tottenham).
*Midfielders: Barry (Aston Villa), Carrick (Man United), Lampard (Chelsea), Downing (Middlesbrough), Beckham (Milan), Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Lennon (Tottenham), Gerrad (Liverpool)
*Forwards: C Cole (West Ham United), Crouch (Portsmouth), Heskey (Aston Villa), Rooney (Manchester United).Reuse content