King stakes diplomatic claim to defensive role for country

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The Independent Football

King's discretion should be rewarded with a rare start against Poland tomorrow night in the holding role vacated by the injured Steven Gerrard and in which he tightened the post-David Beckham resistance to Austria on Saturday. Contrary to public appearances, however, a 14th cap will not entirely appease the international ambitions of the 24-year-old from Bow.

Gone is the naïve youngster who once failed to recall which foot he had broken while on Under-21 duty. In his place is a man who instructed David Pleat to abandon any designs he had on moulding him into a midfielder and concentrate on making him an established centre-half for Tottenham and England instead. Those targets remain, and for all of his skilful attempts to suggest otherwise yesterday, obviously so.

When asked if he could break up the established defensive trio of John Terry, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand last week Jamie Carragher, three years King's senior, admitted it was unlikely and presented his versatility as the virtue for an extended international career. The question was repeated to King, the answer was not, and the Tottenham leader, who played in the same Sunday league team as Terry, Senrab, and in the same division as Ashley Cole, left the distinct impression that, unlike his East End friends, his England moment is yet to come.

"I'm not sure if I am the person to say if I can break up the three we have fighting for those two positions now, it is up to others to judge," said King, presenting the case for his inclusion in the England defence if the form that currently eludes Ferdinand and the fitness that eludes Campbell drag into next summer. "If I do get a chance to play at the back for my country, then hopefully I can take it. It is great for English football that we have so much competition at the back, we are all pushing each other to become better players and that can only be a good thing. Anything is possible with hard work."

King starred in his preferred role against France in the European Championship only to lose his place when Terry was fit to face Switzerland and, if the door to his defensive intentions does remain closed, then he is prepared to adapt to Eriksson's designs. "I missed the last few squads so it is great to be involved now and if I can get on the pitch by playing in different positions, then I am happy to do that," he insisted with a Parliamentarian flourish.