So Ledley King has finally called time on his battle with his knees…and a sad moment for me has come, to accept the fact that I will never seen him majestically marshal the Tottenham defence again. Ledley Has been my favourite player since Sol Campbell left in acrimonious and hostile circumstances all those years ago, but his undoubtedly important presence at the time was soon forgotten as Ledley King took control of the Spurs defence. My twin boys Ben (now a physio with the Dragons rugby club) and Sam (Cardiff Blues and Wales captain in Rugby union) both have been mesmerised by his performances over the years and have taken him on as their all time great Spurs player in their relatively short lives (23).
Why King ? Why has he had so much effect on the three of us ? Simply, he had everything. From having a nickname of “Deadly Ledley” after his fastest ever premiership goal (still a record) to his magnificent defending and the effect he seemed to have on the other players just because he was on the pitch, an astonishing player. I remember when he played for England in Euro 2004 against France, a game which ultimately eneded in cruel defeat for England, but King was phenominal. I`ve never seen such an assured performance in the heart of the England backline. He was replaced in the next game by a fit again John Terry, a ludicrous decision, but that performance was what put him on a pedestal for me.
Not just his football, but his humility and honesty off the pitch. When interviewed after a match, with beads of sweat pouring down his face, he would always say the right things, respectful of the opposition, modest in his own performance, quietly saying his bit, interspersed with a couple of nervous sniffs as he spoke, almost shy and sweet !
His behaviour in front of the camera has not been lost on Sam and the way he conducts himself as the Wales captain, Ledley King is one of his great sporting heroes and he has taken on board the way he conducted himself after matches and applies it when he himself is in front of the media.
The magnitude of how he played was always underlined for me when one of the boys would see him play on “Match of the day” and if he ever made an error it would be a major cause of debate “Did you see King last night Dad ? He made a mistake in the 74th minute !” “Sorry son, you must have mistaken him for another player, or he must be ill..Deadly Ledley doesn`t do mistakes”.
I spoke to Gareth Bale a couple of years ago in a local Cardiff pub when he was resting up from Injury, having a meal with his family. I`d known him from school as he played in the same school team as Ben and Sam for 5 years, and I asked him what it was like to play with Ledley King and he responded “I`ve still got to pinch myself that I`m doing it, he is one of the most gifted footballers I`ve ever seen, he`s amazing”. Not that confirmation was needed in my eyes, but as Gareth has turned out to be a player of immense talent himself, a fitting tribute. Fortunately for me, Gareth managed to get a signed shirt from King to the three of us just the other day, and it will be framed this weekend and take it`s place up on my wall, I`m 53 but still felt like a child when Ben and Sam brought it around for me !
He amassed one major trophy and 21 caps, it should have been 10 major trophies and 100 caps and his loyalty to Tottenham hindered those totals but at the end of the day he will be remembered for a lot more than medals.
I admit to being a shameless King fan so I make no apologies, my house number is 24, how I envy my neighbour who has the number of 26 ! Thanks for the loyalty Ledley (Spurs his only club) and the magnificent way you strolled around White Hart Lane, effortlessly taking the ball off top forwards toes and nonchalantly passing it to a colleague as if it were like taking candy from a baby. Your playing days are gone but it`s not really the end of a legend, as legends live on forever…never at Tottenham Hotspur has a player had such an apt surname.
By Jez Warburton
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