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Richard Laverty

Tottenham legend Ledley King explains why his finest moment in an England shirt was also the beginning of the end for him

England defender Ledley King (R) looks dejected as the French team celebrate after winning their opening football match 2-1, 13 June 2004 at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. France and England are competing in Group B with Switzerland and Croatia.

Former England defender Ledley King has admitted his finest moment in an England shirt was also the beginning of the end for his Three Lions prospects, such was the depth in talent at centre-back at the time. 

Speaking to FourFourTwo, King reflected on starting for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side in the opening game of Euro 2004 against France, but was replaced by Chelsea’s John Terry for the second game of the group stage. 

King performed incredibly well against France, but with Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell all vying for the two places, it became hard for the Tottenham man to gain regular starts, especially when injuries started to take hold of his career. 

Ledley King tussles with Thierry Henry at Euro 2004 (Image credit: Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

“In a way, it [his brilliant performance v France in England’s opening game of Euro 2004] was the beginning of the end,” King recalled. “It was my first competitive match for England and probably only my third or fourth cap, so to start at the Euros against a world-class team was a big thing for me. I performed well and felt that I should have been given a chance to keep my place. 

“John Terry only had one or two more caps than me. The next game, John played and I was on the bench. It was extremely tough to break through: Sol [Campbell] was still there in that period, and there was Rio [Ferdinand], of course. I felt at the time that I should have been given more opportunities. Looking back, it was definitely the highlight for me in an England shirt. 

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With King playing for Tottenham, Terry Chelsea, Ferdinand Manchester United and Campbell Arsenal at the time, all four were rivals at club level, and it was always suggested such rivalries played a part in England’s lack of success despite a golden era of talent, and King agreed he believes it had an influence. 

“I do think it plays a part. If you look at the current England squad, they get on so well with each other. I’m sure there are rival players who talk to each other off the pitch. That was something we never did. Ashley Cole was a good friend of mine growing up, but when he went to Arsenal and I was at Tottenham… our careers went in different directions. 

England's Golden generation was ruined by rivalries, according to King (Image credit: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

“I’ve heard Rio and Frank Lampard say the same thing, and I think that was something that subconsciously played a part in us not producing for England. 

“When we got together we got on well, but we probably didn’t bond as well as we should have, like the current England squad. That was just the era we grew up in. Things were a bit different. It’s a shame that we couldn’t make it work, because for talent we were right up there.” 

More Tottenham Hotspur stories

In FourFourTwo's Season Preview, we look at why Tottenham fans can be excited again for the future.

Spurs have been linked with a move for Chelsea misfit Romelu Lukaku this summer as a replacement for Harry Kane. Tottenham are also reportedly interested in 'the next Thierry Henry' to fill the gap left by their all-time record goalscorer, while Djed Spence has been linked with an exit this summer after making just four appearances since signing last summer.

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