HARRY Redknapp fears Ledley King's inability to train has finally caught up with the Tottenham captain and is causing injuries that could further limit his playing time.
Defender King faces another spell on the sidelines after suffering a recurrence of a groin problem just before half-time of Spurs' Barclays Premier League victory at Fulham yesterday.
King's notoriously-fragile knees have left him unable to train properly for several years, while he has struggled to play more than one game a week.
And it now appears a lack of training is beginning to take its toll on a player who on Tuesday turned the wrong side of 30.
"He's going to be (out) a while," said manager Redknapp.
"The problem he has, he doesn't train, and when you don't train, you pick up injuries.
"It's such a shame for him; he's such a great player.
"If I go out and start trying to sprint up that pitch now without training, I'm going to go and tear a hamstring, or do a groin, or do a calf or something.
"And that's his problem; he can't train.
"He's been doing that for several years.
"But I think, now, he's picking up one or two more injuries."
Yesterday saw Redknapp "gamble" on playing King, with the intention of leaving him out of Wednesday night's mouthwatering Champions League clash with Inter Milan.
"I thought, 'I'm better off getting two games out of him'," said the Tottenham boss, who had hoped to play King in Saturday's match with Everton but now looks to be without him until at least next month.
It is yet another defensive headache for Redknapp, whose problems this season were summed up by the fact yesterday was the first time King and summer signing William Gallas had played together.
Indeed, theirs was Spurs' 11th different centre-back partnership in 13 games this season.
Gallas has also endured an injury-hit start to life at White Hart Lane and yesterday was his first appearance for a month.
"He came out Thursday morning - first time he's been able to train," said Redknapp of the former Arsenal captain.
"I was pleased with what he did back there for us.
"(Sebastien) Bassong came on and coped well at the back with him as well."
That partnership, which kept a second-half clean sheet in yesterday's 2-1 win, will be retained on Wednesday night, with Younes Kaboul unlikely to be ready to return from his hamstring problem.
Redknapp added of Gallas: "He's got to play - there's no-one else!
"Whether you can get three games in a week out of him, though, is going to be difficult.
"I'll probably have to take a chance on Wednesday."
Redknapp's problems at the back have been offset this season by an embarrassment of riches going forward.
The indifferent form of Aaron Lennon had been one concern but the England winger was scintillating in a second-half cameo yesterday.
Redknapp said: "Coming in at 1-1 at half-time, we didn't really get behind them enough.
"For all the possession we had, we played in front of them an awful lot.
"Aaron Lennon, I felt, would give us some pace and get behind.
"And he was a real threat. That was Lennon back, much, much better.
"That was the best he's been for a long time."
Yesterday's defeat was Mark Hughes' first in the Premier League since becoming Fulham boss and it could hardly have been more controversial.
Tom Huddlestone's 63rd-minute winner was awarded by referee Mike Dean, despite assistant Martin Yerby flagging Gallas offside.
And there was more bad news for Hughes, who lost captain Danny Murphy (groin) and striker Mousa Dembele (hip) to injury.
Hughes said: "Mousa was struggling just before half-time and we did a bit of work on him at half-time to try to get a little bit more time out of him but he was only 60-70% in the second half.
"Him and Danny are obviously a key part of our positive play, so to lose them in the latter stages of the game, when we have to show a little bit of craft and guile, (was disappointing)."
Hughes confronted Dean after the final whistle but was not expecting any action from the Football Association.
"I don't think so. I didn't go in in an aggressive manner," said Hughes, who was denied the opportunity to speak further to the official when the latter left the ground without explaining his decision.