So, Ledley King’s career has drawn to a close with not a bang, but a whimper. The news had been doing the round on forums and social networking sites for weeks now, but it was confirmed on Thursday afternoon that the 31-year-old was to be hanging up his boots. King had long been suffering from a problematic knee injury, news that had been known for years now.
His knee prevented him from training with the first team, restricting the former England star to pool work for the week to keep his fitness up before taking part in first-team duties prior to the upcoming encounter. His lack of activity never showed, however, game after game churning out top performance after top performance, despite having no cartilage in his knee.
Effectively playing bone-on-bone, 99% of players would’ve called it a day earlier on. But not King. The Tottenham Hotspur centre-back played through the pain barrier for the good of the team. Harry Redknapp described him as a ‘Rolls Royce’ of player. Martin Jol labelled him as a ‘freak’, in the nicest way possible. Jacques Santini claimed he would only sell him to Arsenal, if they were to bid for him, should they offer £20m, Sol Campbell and Thierry Henry in return.
The praise, on Thursday, has been high for King. Fellow pro’s have been paying homage to the classy defender via twitter, with the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Brad Friedel, Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent all lauding the Spurs defender. It goes to show the respect that King had earned over his 14 years of service to the game.
Fans, as well, have voicing their admiration for the defender via social media sites, many believing the number 26 shirt should be retired, a stature erected outside White Hart Lane and a stand in the new stadium named after him. And it is absolutely deserved for Ledley. Having seen him in the flesh on many occasions, every ounce of extolment is thoroughly deserved.
Many moments will forever stick in the memory of fans; his tackle on Arjen Robben during the 2-1 win over Chelsea in November 2006, his goal against Arsenal in the 1-1 draw in 2005, lifting the Carling Cup in 2008 – it’s the epitome of a player who, without injury problems, could’ve been England’s finest defender since Bobby Moore.
With England, his performance during the 2-1 defeat to France at Euro 2004 was one of the finest defensive displays this football fan has ever seen. Remarkable to think that he only played because John Terry was injured. King was never the loudest of defenders, but his exceptional reading of the game, positional sense, composure and assurance in the back four bred confidence throughout the team and was just a number of his traits that made him such a superb defender.
There is a never-ending list of superlatives to describe King. One of the greatest centre-backs to play the game in recent years, a sentiment echoed not only by Spurs fans, but from rivals as well. Henry claimed he was the hardest defender he ever played against; coming from a world class front-man like the Frenchman; that is some plaudit to receive.
Yet he never let the hype get to him. He could have played for any team in the world, with or without injury, but his loyalty shone through. At the end of the season, he confessed he would rather retire than play for another team. It is statements like this that won the hearts of every fan. The fact that he would rather call time on his career than pull on another team’s colours; it’s a rare characteristic in a game now dominated by money.
The pain barrier may have been an issue, especially in the second half of last season, but King wasn’t the type of player to give into it. Redknapp admitted he was injured, but it never stopped the 31-year-old. When Spurs were short of men at the back, he would happily pull on the shirt and give 110% each and every performance.
His loss will be massive, it’s fair to say, but I couldn’t think of anyone better to be appointed club ambassador. King represents all that is good about the club, as his work within the community shows. It’s a sad day for Spurs, that’s a given. It feels like a family member has been taken from us; picked from their prime when it should’ve been their finest hour.
His testimonial, scheduled for the end of the upcoming season, will an emotional affair. But while his playing time at White Hart Lane has come to a pre-mature end, the memories of Ledley King will forever live in the memory of the fans that had the pleasure of seeing one of, if not the, gracious defender to ever pull on a Spurs shirt.
Altogether now – Oh Ledley, Ledley….
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