Crouch backs King as a 'shoo-in' for World Cup

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The Independent Football

The Tottenham Hotspur captain, Ledley King, is now a certainty to be named in Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup finals on Tuesday after he came through two games in five days for his club side, culminating with Spurs' triumph at Manchester City on Wednesday.

Capello and his assistants have long been admirers of the 29-year-old, who is still yet to play a game for the England manager because of the chronic knee problems he suffers. They have been willing to explore any avenue to get King into the England squad, although the fear has always been that he would be unable to stand up to the rigours of tournament football.

That King came through Saturday's game against Bolton and Wednesday night's win at Eastlands was all the evidence that Capello and his staff required that, despite his problems, King could play at a World Cup. He is still not sure of a place in the final 23-man squad, especially with Rio Ferdinand also such a major injury worry, but he will be part of the England squad for the friendlies against Mexico and Japan.

Tottenham's medical staff had previously claimed that King, who is unable to take part in training during the week because of the swelling to his knees that playing games engenders, was capable of playing only after six days' rest. The events of the last week would appear to suggest that, at a push, he can play more regularly than that.

There will be concerns at Tottenham about the potential effects on King should he play a World Cup with England. The club has bad memories of his last summer outing for England against Estonia in 2007, when he subsequently missed six months of the domestic season with complications the club believed were made worse by international service.

King's team-mate Peter Crouch, who grew up alongside the Spurs captain as a youth-team player at the club, said that a fit King was a "shoo-in" for the England team. Crouch said: "I've played with him since we were 12. He was always the best in youth team, schoolboys. He's a phenomenal player. He doesn't train ever, but then he comes in and he's our best player – man of the match [against City].

"If he can be fit, he's a shoo-in for the World Cup. He is a fantastic player and everyone knows it. It's down to his fitness If he can prove his fitness, there are not many better than him ."

Gareth Barry, who was substituted with an injury to his left ankle on Wednesday, is expected to have a scan today to ascertain the damage done. He has been a regular under Capello and a long-term injury would be a major blow to the England manager.

There is still an outside hope that the Capello camp may be able to talk Jamie Carragher out of his international retirement, three years after he announced his withdrawal from England, although that is still a long shot. What makes the Liverpool defender so valuable is that he is capable of playing right-back as well as his favoured position of centre-half.

There is a slight worry over the fitness of Aaron Lennon, who appeared to be limping when he left the pitch on Wednesday night. Lennon, who was substituted in the 71st minute, is only three games into his comeback after a four-month long absence with a groin problem.

Having advanced his claim for a place in Capello's England starting XI, Crouch said that Tottenham fully deserved their place among England's elite in the Champions League next season. He said: "When I first came in, I said 'How on earth are we not challenging for things?' When we've got international players out of the side, we've got international players to replace them. We've got a lot of young players, fantastic talent. It's only going to get better, and it's a really exciting time to be part of Tottenham.

"We'll be going all out to finish strongly at Burnley and get a result, and see what happens. I've got to be honest, we didn't dream about catching Arsenal. They were challenging for the title at one point, and we were never in the title race. But it is a possibility and that would be fantastic, the icing on the cake. We just want to get a result at Burnley and finish the season well.

"I was looking at the games we've won and we've won more than anyone below us. On that balance, we deserve to be in fourth spot. It is 21 games now we've won. That puts us in fourth. No one could argue we deserve it."

England's european elite

There have been five previous English managers in the Champions League since it's inception in 1992.



Howard Wilkinson, Leeds United, 1992/3

The 66-year-old led Leeds into the Champions League in its inaugral 1992/93 season. A side featuring Eric Cantona, Gary McAllister and Gary Speed neogtiated a difficult first round tie, overcoming German champions Stuttgart, before losing 4-2 on aggregate to Rangers in the second round, succumbing to a goals from Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley.



Ray Harford, Blackburn, 1995/6

After inheriting Kenny Dalglish's 1995 title-winning Blackburn squad, Harford struggled on the European stage. Injuries to key players Tim Sherwood, Graeme Le Saux and Chris Sutton proved crucial as Rovers slumped, finishing bottom of their group with just a single victory.



Bobby Robson, Porto, 1995/6 & Newcastle United, 2002/3, 2003/4

Managed Porto in the competition in 1995, but failed to advance past the group stages. Earned another crack at the tournament with Newcastle seven years later, losing the first three group games before recovering to win the last three and make the second round, culminating with a late Craig Bellamy goal in a 3-2 win at Feyenoord. The Magpies were then knocked out in the second group stage. Newcastle then crashed out in the qualifying round to Partizan Belgrade on penalties in the following season.



Steve McClaren, FC Twente, 2008/9, 2009/10 & 2010/11

The former England manager's two attempts have both ended in the third qualifying round, most notably with a 6-0 aggregate defeat to Arsenal in 2008. However, having won the Eredivisie with Twente this season, the 49-year-old has gained automatic group stage qualification for next season.



Tony Mowbray, Celtic, 2009/10

The Yorkshire-born 46-year-old guided Scottish runners-up Celtic past Dynamo Moscow in the qualifying stages last summer before being comfortably beaten by Arsène Wenger's Arsenal.

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