After weeks of speculation, the retirement of Ledley King has been posted on the Tottenham Hotspur website. Chairman Daniel Levy paid tribute to Ledley King and explained that Ledley will be continuing with the club in an ambassadorial role.
“Ledley has made a magnificent contribution to this Club – as a wonderful player, Captain and ambassador. It has been well documented how he has battled against injury over the years and it is testament to the character of the man how he managed to sustain such high standards of performance on the pitch, while providing such fine leadership.
It is in an ambassadorial capacity that Ledley will continue, playing a crucial role in supporting the Club’s work in the community and the ongoing regeneration of the Tottenham area, whilst also being a hugely positive role model for our younger players.”
Ledley King had seen his career so restricted by injury that for the past number of seasons he was unable to train during the week with the other players and could only make a decision about his availability on the day prior to a game on meeting up with the squad for final preparations. Under such circumstances one would have expected a player’s standards and level of play to slip but with Ledley King, his performances were as good as ever.
No player could be more aptly named than Ledley King – he has been ‘King of Tottenham’ throughout his career. Restricted by injury problems at the start of last season, Ledley King was unavailable for Spurs’ opening two games when the confidence within the club was severely dented by crushing defeats at the hands of Manchester United and City. Eight goals were conceded and doubts were being raised about Tottenham’s prospects for the season. The defence looked out of sorts and with Ledley King, Michael Dawson and William Gallas injured, there was no experienced player to bring stability to the team.
Unexpectedly, Ledley King returned to lead the team at Wolverhampton and gave his usual exemplary performance as Spurs gained their first win of the season. The importance of Ledley King to the Tottenham team was underlined for all to see – he brought a calm to the defence and a reassurance for the other defenders who responded in kind by giving a much more confident display.
In order to manage his injury, King was not considered for midweek Cup or European matches and he managed to put together a run of seventeen undefeated matches for Spurs between September, 2010 and January, 2012. He made an unexpected return to the team in May, 2011 to play in the final two games of the season. He had been fit to be included in the team at the start of season 2010 – 11 but an injury in October, 2010 kept him out for the rest of the season, until his appearance at Anfield where he had made his debut in May, 1999. That first appearance had resulted in a 2 – 3 defeat but on this occasion he helped Tottenham achieve a two goal success that ensured their participation in the Europa League. A week later he played at White Hart Lane as Spurs ensured Birmingham City would drop down to the Championship with a 2 – 1 success. The two games earlier in the season at home to Wolves and at Fulham where he was injured marked the commencement of Ledley’s undefeated run. Surprisingly, the last time he had experienced a loss in Tottenham’s colours was at home to Wigan Athletic in August, 2010. The undefeated run ended in the crucial game against Manchester City when Spurs were deprived of a point by an injury time penalty. Ledley King’s last appearance for Spurs was in a single goal defeat at Loftus Road in late April.
Tottenham’s best central partnership for the past number of seasons has been, Ledley King and one other. Michael Dawson was such a better player when partnering King and the other less experienced defenders, Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong were so much more composed when they had the ever reliable King beside them. If Ledley King had not suffered with injuries over the past number of seasons Spurs would probably have claimed and maintained a top four position in the Premier League so much sooner. In season 2005 – 06 when Spurs missed out on fourth under Martin Jol, an injury to Ledley King in a 1 – 0 win at Everton deprived Spurs of their captain and best defender in the crucial matches at the end of the season. Without the inspirational leadership of King, Spurs took only four points from the final four games, including the infamous ‘Lasagnegate’ defeat at West Ham on the last day.
Early in his career King was frequently played in midfield, so comfortable was he on the ball. It was George Graham who saw him as a central midfield player and it was from that position that King scored the fastest goal ever in the Premier League. At Bradford City in 2000 he gave Spurs the lead after 10 seconds. The match ended in a 3 – 3 draw.
Ledley King played in the Worthington Cup Final defeat to Blackburn Rovers in Cardiff in 2003 and it was an unfortunate slip by the central defender which led to Rovers winning goal. However, King had the satisfaction of returning to the Spurs’ team for the Carling Cup Final in 2008 at Wembley when Spurs overcame Chelsea 2 – 1 after extra time.
With 21 England caps, King has experienced the joy of representing his country but injury has again denied him on so many occasions. In season 2009 – 10 he managed to regain fitness for the climax of the season which saw Spurs qualify for the Champions League place for the first time and was selected for the England World Cup squad in South Africa. Maintaining his fitness throughout the preparations for the tournament he was selected for the first game against the USA but his World Cup experience was cut short as he went off injured at half-time in that opening match. It was to be his last international appearance.
King had gone to the European Championships in 2004 and played exceptionally well against France in the opening game. It was only two late goals by France in the final moments of the game that deprived England of victory. King had kept the French strikers, including Thierry Henry, quiet throughout the match. In 2006 and 2008 he missed out on selection due to injury. He scored his first goal for England against Mexico at Wembley in May, 2010. On occasions he was selected for a holding midfield role with the national team and never looked out of place in that position.
Ledley King was a player of immense talent. He was composed in defence, read the game well and had the pace to recover in a difficult position to make a crucial saving tackle. As a captain, he was quiet but he led by the example of his exquisite performances. He has been a crucial player for Tottenham, coming in to replace Sol Campbell when he joined Arsenal and immediately stepped up to the mark with performances beyond his years and experience.
Ledley King, having come through the youth system, had fourteen seasons in the Tottenham first team and made 268 League appearances, scoring 10 goals. For the past five years he and the club have had to manage his worsening injury problems but if he had been fully fit, how many appearances could he have made and how much more successful would Tottenham have been?
So serious has the injury situation been for King that on many occasions it has been suggested that the time had come for him to retire but he never given up, he always had a desire to return to fitness and play for Spurs. He has put himself through difficult times to make it back into the team, constantly training on his own, attending top consultants around the world, under-going surgery on numerous occasions, overcoming many disappointments and set-backs and starting out on many recovery programmes. It has often been a long and lonely road but he has always shown great focus and determination along the way.
One could never take it for granted that King would be in the Tottenham team. In normal circumstances he would be every manager’s first choice but a fitness problem could arise at any time so it was only at the last moment that a decision was taken as to whether Ledley was able to play.
Ledley King, certainly deserved the title ‘King of Tottenham’ and for all Spurs supporters it is a sad day that he has decided to retire but long may he continue to act as an ambassador for the club and have a positive influence on the young players coming through the club.
Thanks, Ledley, for all your years of loyal service to Tottenham.
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