Eriksson has faith in King as Desailly faces demotion

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The Independent Online

June is shaping up to be a month of extremes for Ledley King, the Tottenham centre-half. Ten days ago his estranged father, Herbert Patterson, was imprisoned for four and a half years on charges of false imprisonment and wounding after a domestic altercation with a former girlfriend. Tomorrow King is in line to fill England's jinxed centre-half position against France at the Estadio da Luz.

June is shaping up to be a month of extremes for Ledley King, the Tottenham centre-half. Ten days ago his estranged father, Herbert Patterson, was imprisoned for four and a half years on charges of false imprisonment and wounding after a domestic altercation with a former girlfriend. Tomorrow King is in line to fill England's jinxed centre-half position against France at the Estadio da Luz.

Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, will this morning decide whether to play King or the more experienced Jamie Carragher in England's opening European Championship finals game after John Terry was ruled out with a hamstring injury yesterday. Neither player was even in contention for a squad place at the turn of the year.

The French also have a doubt over central defence with their captain, Marcel Desailly, expected to be omitted. It is feared "The Rock" will be exposed by Michael Owen's pace. Lilian Thuram would move to central defence and either William Gallas or Willy Sagnol take over at right-back. In attack David Trezeguet should be fit to return.

While Jacques Santini, the France coach, is thought to have made his mind up about Desailly, Eriksson said he was yet to make a decision. "Both players have done it in training, now I have to choose one," he said. "Carragher is more experienced in international football, King may be a little bit quicker and a better header. They are both in good shape. It is about making the right choice."

The decisive memory may be the sight of Carragher blundering into his team-mate, Igor Biscan, after Thierry Henry sold him the most delicious of dummies in Arsenal's Easter victory over Liverpool. Carragher's international experience is itself limited but he has played in the Champions' League during his 300-plus games with Liverpool.

"You cannot give someone experience," Eriksson said. "They can only get it through playing. King seems very calm. I don't think he is nervous. I am not worried about him."

King himself said: "I'm always nervous before a game. I try not to show it but my nerves also help me produce my best form. It will be the biggest game of my life if I get the opportunity but I won't let anyone down."

King, 23, came to notice at Senrab, the boys team based in East London which also numbers Bobby Zamora, Muzzy Izzet, Jlloyd Samuel and, ironically, Terry amongst its graduates. He was taken on by Tottenham and progressed through the ranks playing for a season alongside Sol Campbell. First capped by Eriksson shortly before the World Cup, he did not play again until the home defeat to Australia in February 2003. His third appearance, and first start, did not arrive until this February when he was called up as a replacement for the friendly against Portugal.

Despite having been playing in midfield for Tottenham, he caught the eye, not so much for scoring a deflected goal as for a display brimming with poise and confidence. However, but for late injuries to Gareth Southgate and Jonathan Woodgate he would now be on the holiday he had booked before the squad announcement.

Either King or Carragher will be the seventh centre-half Eriksson has used in this European Championship campaign. Of the others, Campbell plays, Rio Ferdinand is suspended, Southgate, Woodgate and Terry are injured and Matthew Upson fallen by the wayside.

"We may have lost four centre-halves but we are still in better shape than before the World Cup," Eriksson insisted.

"You're talking about playing the top, top players in the world. Zidane, Henry, of course they will create problems for us, you must expect that. But we have to try to defend as well as possible."

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