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Time For Ledley To Retire? Or One Last Year?

At the end of the 2004/2005 season, I remember reading a quote from Ledley King on the Tottenham Hotspur Official website. Although the exact content escapes me, he was basically commenting on his ever present season and his happiness at playing in every game. Famous last words almost. It was to be the beginning of the end of one of England’s finest central defenders.

Ledley Brenton King, just 24, was forging himself a reputation as excellent central defender. Calm yet imposing, pace with poise, he was allowing (some) Tottenham fans to forget the departure of Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell. With Northallerton’s finest Michael Dawson (his middle name is a rather dull Richard) joining in 2005. The future looked bright. King and Dawson, both youthful, both with bags of ability and potential, were heralded as the foundations for which Tottenham could build upon. Then the knee injury happened …

Whilst everything on Wikipedia cannot be trusted, I think it speaks volumes that King’s career is split into three sections on the site .. “1997-2001”, “2001-2006” then “2006 – present”. The 1997-2001 is really the formative years and him breaking into the team. 2001-2006 was King at the peak of his powers. 2006-present could really be renamed “Post knee injury”. Type “Ledley King ” into google and the search engine with bring back “Ledley King twitter”, “Ledley King fastest goal” and then “Ledley King knee”. We have not really seen Ledley King at this peak of his powers for five years and I concur with Wikipedia that his career should be cauterised after the knee injury. Before 2006, I genuinely think, with only a hint of Spurs rose tinted glasses, that there wasn’t a better English defender. Now we are faced with a naturally gifted defender that has played just 59 games in three seasons, including just 9 in all competitions in the 2010-11 season.

The brief history of Ledley at White Hart Lane above was a little self-indulgent as I searched the archives for info on our longest serving player. Watching YouTube clips of his brilliance and reading old match reports paints vividly a picture of a top class player and professional cruelly cut down by injury. For those younger supporters or those that forget how good Ledley has been, search for yourself, you will not be disappointed. However, this is 2011 and we now have on our books a player where the tag “injury prone” does not really justify his problems and an issue that perhaps Harry and his coaching staff need to address urgently.

With just days to the big kick off, I love discussing the up and coming season and where Tottenham may finish, who we might sign and equally, the starting XI! The starting XI discussion always starts with “if fit” .. and “if fit” is to be used, Ledley King would be the first name on the team sheet. However, in the discussions I have had, even “if fit” doesn’t get Ledley in … because we know he won’t be fit. So he has to be removed from all thoughts and processes. This is also a dilemma that Harry and his staff have to face. I firmly believe that a settled backline is absolutely key for success. To be honest, I think you need to know firmly a starting XI and you build on that. Ledley cannot be part of it. He may dip into the odd game, but you need to build that solid foundation. I am not a house builder, but I presume that if you lay foundations then, every now and again, take a foundation away, replace it for a week, then put the original foundation back, your house won’t be as solid. For that reason, I think Ledley has to be excluded from first team thoughts …

Ledley feels like a “monkey on the back” as they say. No centre back ever sure of this place in the starting line-up .. as Ledley might be back and play. No partnerships can be built up over the long term … because Ledley will come back every now and again. No rhythm. I just don’t think it works. I also think it affects the entire backline, especially when he is also unable to train. When he plays, he is brilliant, but it does not really help the likes of Dawson, Kaboul or Gallas, his partners at the back, of indeed Assou-Ekotto, Corluka and dare I say it, Gomes.

Ledley has one year left on his contract and I truly believe this should be his last. It should be the last to retain his legacy at White Hart Lane, his personal health and also for the team. When Dean Ashton retired I read an excellent piece in a paper where he was told he could continue to play .. but he was risking his ability to walk in the future. I would hate to see Ledley, in years to come, being pushed to a game in a wheelchair because his knee has been destroyed because of a “one more season” mentality.

So, as we sit on the cusp of the 2011-2012 season, I look to Ledley as more of a cup competition player. Someone that may play in the Europa league and the domestic cup competitions and pass on his experience to the youngsters that we hope will play in those games. I truly believe the likes of Kyle Walker, Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend, to name but three, would benefit from playing alongside a player of King’s stature. I also think it would help the likes of Dawson and Kaboul to be told they are first choice and to move forward, together, as a pairing.

I don’t know if King has thought about retirement, I guess so, and it will be difficult for him to stop playing, but I hope, as the season finishes in 2012, King retires and takes up a coaching position. I think King passing on his knowledge from the side lines to the likes of Steven Caulker would be hugely beneficial in the years to come.

Ledley King has, and always will be, one of my favourite players. Footballers will often say their bodies tell them when to stop playing, I think Ledley’s has been telling him this for a few years now …

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1 Comment

  1. Tenerife Property

    August 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The main reason is we need a stable partnership at the back. We have good defenders but are changing the partnership far, far too often and not allowing two of them to strike up a good understanding. Use Ledley in the Europa League if he is fit and then move him into defensive coaching after his contract expires in a year.

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