Ledley King. A superman with a knee made of kryptonite.
Ledley King has been in a perpetual state of retirement for years. The piece below is poignant, something I wrote for 2Hal/ves, a one-shot fanzine released on the day of the North London derby in October, 2009.
Ledley will always be our King
Henry Percy (otherwise known as ‘Harry Hotspur’) acquired a reputation as a warrior supreme. Unfortunately he was cut down in his prime – struck by a fatal arrow in the midst of battle. The greatest Hotspur warrior of the modern age, Ledley King, is proving rather more difficult to best - no fatal arrow to the face, just plenty of kicks to the knee.
Ledley remains a colossus in defence, always unnerved and influential. He is strong, fast and wonderfully talented. More than all these things, he is loyal - to the bone.
Thankfully, there’s no chance of him befalling the same fate as the esteemed Percy. On the field of play the only thing he might get struck by is an opposition elbow or a water bottle. In spite of the relative safety of the football pitch, a disconcerting nod from the club doctor has become an unavoidable hazard in recent years.
He might now be a one game per week player, but such is the quality he possesses it remains worth retaining his services on a full time basis. Pound-for-pound, he is arguably one of the very best England has to offer. Some of the more cynical amongst you might even argue that if he didn’t have his knee troubles he’d probably be a Man Utd player. But injury is not the only reason why we have yet to be graced by a Daniel Levy announcement justifying a £30m transfer of King to Old Trafford (along with a generous donation to the Tottenham Foundation). Ledley has remained unquestionably loyal to the core throughout his time at the Lane.
Ledley is a loyal committed servant who gets wrapped up in cotton wool more often than not. A servant who (out of necessity) doesn’t spend much time training, and yet displays effortless class on the pitch with athleticism befitting someone who does train all week long. He’s a millionaire and yet persists in having injections in his knee so he can continue to play the game he so obviously loves. For all we know he could be exacerbating the damage and running the risk of serious problems in later life. And yet his commitment remains unparalleled.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and he positively runs it out for us every time he starts, home or away. He brings stability at the back and although he’s not a shouter, his mere presence inspires his team mates to excel, mainly by virtue of the air of confidence he oozes rubbing off on others around him.
King is deserving of Champions League football and yet has never turned his back on us and looked for it elsewhere – unlike another centre-back who falsely professed loyalty. King has so much quality that if he had asked his agent to go looking he would not have been short of suitors.
If Fergie is happy to take a risk on Owen, there is no doubting that he’d gamble on Ledley. And yet here we are: one contract with Spurs followed by another. He’s never even considered another club’s colours. Now before you all accuse me of sentimentality and exaggeration and suggest this article is nothing more than a press release for a forthcoming Spurs Shop DVD, understand this: In this day and age, there are few players a football fan can genuinely respect and admire. And Ledley is someone who is respected and admired by all, regardless of the colour of the scarf. He’s a class act. Plain and simple. Every fan would want a player like King in their team.
Ledley King is not just a warrior. He’s not just a loyal Spurs fan that remains committed to the club and its fans as player and captain. He’s one of us. Tottenham through-and-through. Lilywhite blood. The tenacity of a Mackay or Roberts without the need for bullish growling. Ledley the gentle giant quietly sticks forwards into his back pocket and goes about his business patrolling the backline making sure nobody knocks over the ‘You shall not pass’ sign.
We are stronger when he pulls on the shirt. His composure brings calm to the backbone of the side. He’s no pretender. He’s the real deal. All this with one knee. Ledley King IS Mr Tottenham Hotspur. The spirit of Harry Hotspur lives on. And long may he dodge that final concluding arrow.
A graceful footballer, a gentleman on and off the pitch (excluding any excursions to Faces nightclub) and the one magnificent constant when surrounded by so many inconsistencies. The finest defender I've ever seen. Easily the best of his (and my) generation in Lilywhite. Inspirational. Calm and composed. He could read the game with supreme intelligence with no necessity to tackle half as often as others might do, prefering to throw themselves at an opposing player. When forwards pelted towards the ball, he'd breeze past them, comfortably jogging before nicking the ball tidy as you like. With one knee he ruled Tottenham, with two he'd have conquered the world twice over. Overboard with the sentimentality and plaudits? Probably, but then what's the likelihood of us doing this for another Spurs player in the next twenty years?
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
Thank you Ledley for seventeen years service (fourteen years in the first team). Over three hundred appearances, scored more goals than yellow cards received, no red cards and countless strikers sat firmly in your back pocket. You played football with one knee and yet you were still comfortably better than most. You didn't even have to train, that's how easy you made it look. The travesty is when you spend a little time considering what you might have achieved with no injury plight to fragment and puncture every season. Yet you have still imprinted yourself on our club, iconic forever. You could have quit the game years ago, didn't, but it's the right decision for you to now abdicate your throne. The time for a new hero is now upon us.
Onwards Ledley King, club ambassador.