Following a season in which injury again restricted his Tottenham appearances, his inclusion in the England squad saw Ledley King at the the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Injury struck in his first match and he was only able to play for 45 minutes. It was, however, after only three minutes of the opening game that he was injured bringing his World Cup and international career with England to an end.
In the 2009-10 season as Tottenham secured Champions League football Ledley King managed to play 20 games but was again hampered by his recurring injuries. Towards the end of the season, he returned to the team to play in 5 of the last 6 games, helping Tottenham to 4th place in the Premier League ahead of Manchester City.
In those games, King impressed the England manager, Fabio Capello, who included him in the provisional squad for South Africa. King scored in the pre-tournament win against Mexico and secured his place in the squad for the Finals.
Commenting on his selection for the World Cup in his autobiography, King wrote,
When Capello called me up for the 2010 World Cup squad, I felt he had a huge faith in my ability as a player and I wanted to repay him by proving him right.
Aware that, as with Tottenham, he needed to manage his fitness carefully, King because of his knee problems was allowed to sit out some of the more intense training sessions.
Ledley King at the 2010 World Cup
England’s first group game was against the USA and King made the team to play alongside John Terry. In his book, King wrote,
‘Just three minutes into the game, stretching a little bit, I reached for a header. I felt something go in my groin. My first reaction was: please no, it can’t be happening.’
King admits he went into denial and didn’t want to tell the coaches anything. He thought he might be able to run it off but only managed, in his words, to struggle through to half-time and at the interval he was replaced. USA equalised towards the end of the first half and the match ended in a draw as the USA won the group with England finishing in second place.
Reflecting on his preparations for the game, King said that he had been feeling fine but had made a couple of changes to his routine. He had decided to do his own warm-up away from the team and he didn’t have the cycling shorts that he been wearing for years. These made his thighs and muscles feel warmer, more stable and compact and as he didn’t like the type England supplied he opted not to wear them.
I still think about that decision to shed the shorts because of what happened next.
After scans he discovered he had a grade-two tear but with intense treatment he returned for the last-16 game against Germany but Capello decided not to change the team.
The injury to Ledley King after 3 minutes of that opening World Cup game brought his international career with England to a premature end and with continued problems over his fitness, he was to announce his retirement two years later.