Schalke 04
Manchester City
12:00 PM UTC
Leg 1
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Atletico Madrid
12:00 PM UTC
Leg 1
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England moving in right direction under Gareth Southgate - Ledley King

Ledley King believes there is a stronger connection between England's players than in the past, and has credited Gareth Southgate with creating the atmosphere that took the Three Lions to the World Cup semifinals.

King made 21 appearances for the national team at a time when a "golden generation" failed to meet expectations. He was part of the England squads that bowed out disappointingly in the quarterfinals at Euro 2004 and the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.

But after seeing Southgate's men reach the semifinals, King says there's an important change in the dynamic within the camp.

"I saw a discussion between Rio [Ferdinand], Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard [on BT Sport] and they hit the hail on the head," former Spurs captain King said in Los Angeles at the start of Tottenham's preseason tour.

"Without knowing it, we didn't connect as much as you need to when you're going away for weeks at a time for tournament football.

"We got on, but we didn't get on like the England team now. We didn't enjoy each other's company like they do now. When you're playing for your country in tournament football, it's about enjoying your football. That's really important.

"I think it starts with the manager. He creates a lot of it, that environment. He makes it a happy place for everyone to integrate, to get along, to create that team spirit.

"Watching the current England team, it was good to see that they really enjoyed being there and playing together."

Southgate was in the England side when King made his international debut against Italy in March 2002, and the ex-Tottenham skipper believes the right man is at the helm.

"I was 22 or 23 at the time and I just remember him being a big help for me," King said. "He was an experienced head at the back and he really ushered me through the game.

"He was a top player and a real gentleman, so I'm pleased to see him doing so well.

"Continuity is what we need for the national team now -- someone to build around, and he's the right man to do that.

"The players really enjoy playing under him and the camp seemed to run as smoothly as I've seen [at the World Cup]. I'm looking forward to the future of English football under him."

King continued: "I watched the penalty shootout against Colombia at a friend's house and what I found tough was that for the first time in a long time -- and I think it was the same for a lot of people -- I really connected with the national team again. I could feel the tension in every game, none more so than the penalty shootout.

"Going into the tournament there wasn't too much expected of the group, but it just goes to show what a young, forward-thinking English manager and a group of hungry players that are playing together can do.

"Some players really came of age -- Kieran Trippier being one of them. He was outstanding in his first tournament.

"We all got a bit greedy in the end by thinking we could win it but, from the last tournament to now, it's been big steps in the right direction. I think we can be happy with that."


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