Monday, October 10, 2011

Ledley, King of Tottenham

Ledley King has seen his career so restricted by injury that he is now unable to train during the week with the other players and can only make a decision about his availability on the day prior to a game when he meets up with the squad for final preparations.  Under such circumstances one would expect a player's standards and level of play to be slipping but with Ledley King, his performances are as good as ever. 

Ledley King - the King of Tottenham
No player could be more aptly named than Ledley King - he is King of Tottenham.  Restricted by injury problems at the start of another season, Ledley King was unavailable for Spurs' opening two games when the confidence within the club was severely dented by crushing defeats at the hands of Manchester United and City.  Eight goals were conceded and doubts were being raised about Tottenham's prospects for the season.  The defence looked out of sorts and with Ledley King, Michael Dawson and William Gallas injured, there was no experienced player to bring some organisation and stability to the team.

Unexpectedly, Ledley King returned to lead the team at Wolverhampton and giving his usual exemplary performance assisted Spurs to their first win of the season with the additional bonus of keeping a clean sheet.  The importance of Ledley King's appearance in the team cannot be under estimated - he brought a calm to the defence and the other defenders responded in kind and gave a much more confident display.

In order to manage his injury King was not considered for the midweek Europa League game in Greece and so was able to captain the team to an unexpectedly emphatic victory over Liverpool at White Hart Lane where Ledley again used all his experience to frustrate the visitors' expensively acquired strikers by preventing them getting onto the scoresheet.  After, a very discouraging opening to the new League season, Tottenham with Ledley King have now achieved four successive wins and added Wigan and north London neighbours, Arsenal to their hit list.

Ledley King has now been victorious in the last eight games that he has played for Spurs.  He made an unexpected return to the team last May to play in the final two games of the season.  He had been fit to be included in the team at the start of season 2010 - 11 but an injury in October, 2010 kept him out for the rest of the season, until his appearance at Anfield where he had made his debut in May, 1999.  That first appearance had resulted in a 2 - 3 defeat but on this occasion he helped Tottenham achieve a two goal success that ensured their participation in the Europa League.  A week later he played at White Hart Lane as Spurs ensured Birmingham City would drop down to the Championship with a 2 - 1 success.  The two games earlier in the season at home to Wolves and at Fulham where he was injured marked the commencement of Ledley's winning run - a total of eight winning Premier League games.  Surprisingly, the last time he experienced a loss in Tottenham's colours was at home to Wigan Athletic in August.  The undefeated run actually stretches to ten games with two matches in the Champions League included.

14th Sept. 2010 CL v Werder Bremen (a) Draw  2 - 2
18th Sept. 2010 PL v Wolves (h) Won 3 - 1
29th Sept. 2010 CL v FC Twente (h) Won 4 - 1
16th Oct. 2010 PL v Fulham (a) Won 2 - 1
15th May, 2011 PL v Liverpool (a) Won 2 - 0
22nd May, 2011 PL v Birmingham City (h) Won 2 - 1
 10th Sept. 2011 PL v Wolves (a) Won 2 - 0
18th Sept. 2011 PL v Liverpool (h) Won 4 - 0
24th Sept. 2011 PL v Wigan Athletic (a) Won 2 - 1
1st Oct. 2011 PL v Arsenal (h) Won 2 - 1 

Tottenham's best central partnership is simply, Ledley King and one other.  Michael Dawson is such a better player when partnering King and the other less experienced defenders, Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong are so much more composed when they have the ever reliable King beside them.  If Ledley King had not suffered with injuries over the past number of seasons Spurs would probably have claimed and maintained a top four position in the Premier League so much sooner.  In season 2005 - 06 when Spurs missed out on fourth under Martin Jol, an injury to Ledley King in a 1 - 0 win at Everton deprived Spurs of their captain and best defender in the crucial matches at the end of the season.  Without the inspirational leadership of King, Spurs took only four points from the final four games, including the infamous 'Lasagnegate' defeat at West Ham on the last day.

Early in his career King was frequently played in midfield, so comfortable was he on the ball.  It was George Graham who saw him as a central midfield player and it was from that position that King scored the fastest goal ever in the Premier League.  At Bradford City in 2000 he gave Spurs the lead after 10 seconds.  The match ended in a 3 - 3 draw.

Ledley King played in the Worthington Cup Final defeat to Blackburn Rovers in Cardiff in 2003 and it was an unfortunate slip by the central defender which led to Rovers winning goal.  However, King had the satisfaction of returning to the Spurs' team for the Carling Cup Final in 2008 at Wembley when Spurs overcame Chelsea 2 - 1 after extra time at Wembley.

With thirty England caps, King has experienced the joy of representing his country but injury has again denied him on so many occasions.  In season 2010 - 11 he managed to regain fitness for the climax of the season which saw Spurs qualify for the Champions League place for the first time and was selected for the England World Cup squad in Germany.  Maintaining his fitness throughout the preparations for the tournament he was selected for the first game but his World Cup experience was cut short as he went off injured at half-time in that opening match.  He also went to the European Championships in 2004 and played exceptionally well against France in the opening game.  It was only two late goals by France in the final moments of the game that deprived England of victory.  King had kept the French strikers, including Thierry Henry, quiet throughout the match.  In 2006 and 2008 he missed out on selection due to injury.  He scored his first goal for England against Mexico at Wembley in May, 2010.

Ledley King is a player of immense talent.  He is composed in defence, reads the game well and has the pace to recover in a difficult position and make a crucial saving tackle.  As a captain, he is quiet but he leads by the example of his exquisite performances.  He has been a crucial player for Tottenham, coming in to replace Sol Campbell when he joined Arsenal and immediately stepped up to the mark with performances beyond his years and experience.

Ledley King, in his fourteenth season in the first team, has made 251 League appearances (the win at Wigan marked his 250th appearance), scoring 10 goals for Spurs.  For the past five years he and the club have had to manage his worsening injury problems but if he had been fully fit, how many appearances could he have made and how much more successful would Tottenham have been?

So serious has the injury situation been for King that on many occasions it has been suggested that the time had come for him to retire but he has never given up, he has always had a desire to return to fitness and play for Spurs.  He has put himself through difficult times to make it back into the team, constantly training on his own, attending top consultants around the world, under-going surgery on numerous occasions, overcome many disappointments and set-backs and started out on many recovery programmes.  It has often been a long and lonely road but he has always shown great focus and determination along the way.

One can never take it for granted that King will be in the Tottenham team. In normal circumstances he is every manager's first choice but a fitness problem can arise at any time so it is only at the last moment that a decision is taken as to whether Ledley is able to play.  Hopefully, after a fortnight's break for the internationals, he will be available to once again be present in the side at Newcastle on Sunday and maintain Tottenham's current good form at a ground where they have disappointed in recent years.  Everyone will be so much more confident of a good, winning performance if Ledley
King is fit and ready for action on Sunday.

Ledley King, certainly deserves the title of 'King of Tottenham' and as far a Spurs supporters are concerned, 'Long may he reign.'


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