19 July 2012

A tribute to Ledley, King of Tottenham

Tottenham legend Ledley King retires after a 14-year career cut too short.

On one of the saddest days of Tottenham Hotspur's recent history, their one-club man and former captain Ledley King announced his retirement from playing.

The 31-year-old centre-back had battled on for several years despite a chronic knee injury, but after making 323 appearances in 14 years in the Spurs first-team, he has finally brought an end to his career. He will remain at White Hart Lane as a club ambassador.

King told the Tottenham website: "I have been here since I was a boy, I have always considered it my Club and have always found it hard to imagine wearing the shirt of another team.

“I know that being a one-club man is a rarity these days, but I have always enjoyed being part of the set-up here and the challenge of putting this Club up with the elite where it should be.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone at the club and to the fans. I have missed a lot of football over the years, but the Spurs fans have always been patient and incredibly supportive with me during difficult periods. Sadly my injuries and inability to train have now finally brought an end to my career.”

King will go down as one of Tottenham's greatest players, and also as a wonderful ambassador on and off the pitch. In terms of trophies, he was not quite as successful as Danny Blanchflower, Steve Perryman or Glenn Hoddle, but he was just as proud to pull on the colours of his home team.

It all began for the Stepney boy in May 1999, when the then 18-year-old Ledley made his first-team debut versus Liverpool. A year later, in December 2000, he made headlines by scoring the Premier League's quickest goal. His strike after 10 seconds against Bradford City has yet to be beaten in the competition.

His performances for Tottenham soon attracted the attention of England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, who handed him his first international cap against Italy in March 2002. He went on to play for the Three Lions 21 times, and featured at UEFA Euro 2004, although he flew home from Portugal before the fateful Quarter Final against the hosts after his partner went into labour. He also played in England's opening group game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup against the United States.

King was appointed as Tottenham captain in 2005, but in approximately the 2006/2007 season, his injury troubles began. A knee injury delayed his season, and a broken metatarsal meant that he missed more than half of Spurs' matches during the campaign.

As his knee continued to deteriorate, King's appearances for Spurs became more sporadic, although he did lift the only major trophy of his career in the 2008 League Cup Final against Chelsea. But eventually, the injury got so bad that he required his own exercise regime and couldn't play more than one game in a week.

A lesser man might have decided to call it a day there and then. It is testament to King's character and determination that he continued playing as long as he did. To defy doctors and maintain his playing career for four more years than expected, despite having no cartilage in his left knee, is unbelievable.

An imperious defender of great footballing intelligence, it is one of modern English football's great tragedies that he never reached his full potential. Many people are of the opinion that, but for his injuries, King would have captained England at the last couple of major tournaments instead of Steven Gerrard.

Ledley King the player leaves Tottenham at the right time. Spurs are in a transitional phase, and Andre Villas-Boas now has to pick a new captain. Fellow centre-back Michael Dawson is the favourite to get the nod, but maybe Villas-Boas will offer Luka Modric a little incentive to stay at White Hart Lane by making him skipper.

Ledley was a true Tottenham Hotspur, and he was well-respected even by supporters of rival teams, mainly because he is a genuinely likeable guy. John Terry and Rio Ferdinand keep making headlines for the wrong reasons, whereas King hardly ever appeared in the papers for non-footballing reasons. He was a man that you could definitely describe as class.

I for one wish him well in his new role at Tottenham.

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