Tottenham's Ledley King a shining example in age of footballing mercenaries

The former Spurs captain, who spent 13 years with the north London club, will be honoured with a testimonial on Monday, with club legends such as David Ginola featuring
By Gerry Cox

It is refreshing, in an age when most footballers are seen as mercenaries whose only loyalty is to their bank balance, to see a proper one-club man getting his just rewards.

Ledley King will be honoured for his 13 years of loyal service to Tottenham with a testimonial match between the current side and a team of Spurs legends including Teddy Sheringham, Dimitar Berbatov and David Ginola.

The game, on May 12, comes the day after the north Londoners play their final game of a Premier League season that has been as turbulent and tumultuous as Tottenham fans have come to expect.


May '99 vs Liverpool
July 2012
So the fact that they will still turn out in their thousands to honour "King Ledley", as they call him, shows just how highly they regard the local boy who grew up to play 321 games for Spurs, lift the League Cup as captain and win 21 England caps before injury forced him to retire a year ago.

Just as he did for the final few years of his playing career, King will play through the pain of a dodgy right knee that led to fans rejoicing in his brilliance.

"Oh Ledley, Ledley, He's only got one knee, He's better than John Terry, Oh Ledley, Ledley."

Indeed, many in the game regard King as one of the finest defenders of his generation, with the speed of a striker, strength of a centre-back and ball skills of a midfielder, which is where he played during the early part of his career at Tottenham. Certainly Thierry Henry regarded him as his most difficult opponent - not surprisingly when you recall the way King could give the Frenchman a yard's start and still beat him to the ball.

So it will be a special moment for King and his fans when White Hart Lane hosts his testimonial.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he tells Goal. "It will be fantastic to get out on the pitch one more time, to say thank you to the fans who supported me throughout my career.

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"There will be some of the great players to have graced the Lane so I'm looking forward to sharing a pitch with them."

Now working as club ambassador, King watches Spurs every week and is still close to the team, who have had another season that started with high hopes but finished outside the top four again.

A raft of new players arrived after Gareth Bale was sold but not all fitted in and manager Andre Villas-Boas was sacked in December, to be replaced by Tim Sherwood, though King remains upbeat. "It's been a difficult season - changing the manager halfway through has not made it easy - but Tim has carried the mantle well," opined King. "His results speak for themselves and I think he has done himself no harm in terms of moving forward."

The big talking point now is who will replace Sherwood, with Frank de Boer and Mauricio Pochettino the bookmakers' favourites. King says that whoever takes over will have a stronger squad, with last season's new signings having had a year to adjust to the intensity of the Premier League.

"The club will obviously act in their best interests over the summer and the players that came in will be better for having had the experience of a season in the Premier League, so I fully expect them to flourish next season," he said.

One important part of King's role is working on the Skills project, which helps keep local kids off the streets and encourages them back into education and sport. "Growing up in London myself, I know about the danger of being out on the streets with not much to do," he continued. "It's great that the kids can come to a safe environment and, through sport, add to their education and employment prospects."

King's role as club ambassador also means that he can continue to work towards his coaching qualifications with the prospect of management on the horizon – but not yet.

"I'm really enjoying it, working with the club's foundation, meeting supporters groups all over the place," he enthused. "It also allows me to carry on with my coaching. I have started my badges and I've always said that, if I do enjoy it, being a manager or a coach is an option but it's early days for me now and I would like to take my time and work my way up."

One disappointment for King, however, was to see Andros Townsend miss out on the World Cup through injury, something with which he can sympathise only too well.

"It's very disappointing because he has been sensational for us and England this season," the former defender noted. "To miss out on a World Cup is tough to take for any player. The one piece of advice I would give him is to take his time and make sure he heals and gets fully fit again for next season. He is young enough to play in a few more competitions down the line."