Henry rates King as only defender to tackle fairly

Kieran Daley
Saturday 12 August 2006 00:00 BST

Thierry Henry has given the England manager, Steve McClaren, food for thought by naming Ledley King as the only defender who can get the better of him without fouling.

The Arsenal captain has been the Premiership's number one striker for a number of seasons and is arguably the best in the world. But the Frenchman admitted he had not always come out on top in derby meetings with the Tottenham defender, who had been used only occasionally in the national team by the previous manager, Sven Goran Eriksson.

He said: "I don't like defenders who hold the shirts of other players. The only defender here who doesn't do that and sometimes still gets the ball off my feet easily is Ledley King.

"He is the only guy who doesn't hold players. He will get the ball off you without you even noticing. For me, that is a good defender.

"He plays without any contact yet is somehow still strong and gets the ball without doing any fouls."

King, 25, has been capped 15 times so far with Eriksson preferring to use John Terry - McClaren's new captain - and Rio Ferdinand as his central defensive pairing. Injury prevented King from taking part in the World Cup finals in Germany. Eriksson had also tried him in a defensive midfield role a number of times.

The Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, who will be the new England vice-captain, was also played there as the Swede tried to fit him in the same side as David Beckham and Frank Lampard. The 26-year-old had been first capped in 2000 but Henry made it clear not everyone had appreciated Gerrard's true worth as quickly as he had from playing against him.

He said: "I love Steven Gerrard. But if you talk to me about Steven Gerrard I would say people didn't recognise his game for a long time. He had to do what he had to do before people realised what a good player he is. He had to really push it for people to see what he could really do.

"Paul Scholes had the same problem, too. I always liked Paul Scholes but a lot of people didn't feel the same way. I think Steven Gerrard is just amazing."

On the subject of his side, Henry said he feels that last season's experiences when Arsène Wenger's side emerged from a shaky start to reach the Champions' League final and also snatch fourth in the Premiership will stand them in good stead. "The team can build on something they have done," he said. "We did not win the Champions' League, but you can build on that - the team has a past, even though it was not bringing back a trophy. Some of the young players who came in, they were in an unknown position, but now they know they can do a great job."

Henry insisted: "The team this year will not start as low as we were last year when Patrick [Vieira] left. That great run in the Champions' League can only help because you saw we could do amazing stuff against amazing teams home and away."

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