So the inevitable has finally happened. After 13 years and 323 appearances Ledley King, one of the few modern Tottenham legends has retired from football.
The biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon Ledley King has to be that he managed to find a place in the hearts of all Spurs fans whilst undergoing rehabilitation more often than actually playing. Ledley was not only a great player but also a great leader on the pitch, his departure will leave an enormous hole at Tottenham Hotspur.
It's genuinely sad that King has had to hang up his boots with such unfulfilled potential. When he first arrived in the first team in 1999 he already seemed to have the foundations in place for becoming a great centre back. Not only was he strong and a good tackler but he also had good feet, speed and tactical nous. Let's not forget that he was just as comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder as he was at centre back, in fact many of his 21 England caps saw him playing in that very position.
At the time of his ascension to the first team he also had the perfect role model in Sol Campbell, another Spurs legend. The prospect of those two forging a partnership to last for years to come was certainly an exciting one. Unfortunately, Campbell decided to cash in his legend status to play for the old enemy, but many would argue that Ledley eventually overtook the skill of his old master.
King soon became the rock around which Tottenham was built, his influence on the team so great that in recent years Spurs' win percentage has been 40 % greater with Ledley than without.
If it wasn't for his injury woes King surely would have been the defender of his generation. It's quite remarkable that anyone could compete at the top level without being able to train properly, let alone having to drain your knee of fluid and rest for six days after every match whilst being completely dominant.
Thierry Henry, once the finest striker on the planet described King as 'Europe's best defender', praise indeed. Ledley also compares remarkably well to other English defenders of his generation, for example he has a tackle success rate in the region of 79 % which dwarfs John Terry's 70 % and unbelievably for a centre back in his whole premier league career only received 8 yellow cards.
There is one abiding memory of Ledley King that stands above the rest. In what must be one of the greatest tackles of all time Ledley used his now long departed acceleration to claw back 20 yards on Arjen Robben before nabbing the ball off Robben's toe as he pulled the trigger in front of a flailing Paul Robinson. It was a truly breathtaking piece of defensive work.
In some ways however it comes as a relief to see Ledley finally admit defeat. Although still tactically superior and an imperious tackler it was painful viewing to watch him struggle to keep up with the pace at the back end of last season. You knew that he was straining every sinew to play as well as he knew he could but it was heartbreaking to watch him fail as his body just wouldn't let him go on.
The timing of King's retirement isn't particularly great for Tottenham either. With what in effect has been a clear out of backroom staff at the club over the summer to lose the club captain can only make Andre Villas-Boas' job more difficult. Although many may see this as an exciting time for the club, with so many new faces it is certainly a finely balanced period.
Tottenham have never been a team renown for their defensive superiority and are going to suffer from losing King's wealth of experience. They have however been buoyed by the recent emergence of Younes Kaboul and the signing of the talented Jan Vertonghen. It is likely to be Kaboul who takes over King's mantel but the timing of Vertonghen's arrival means that he has very big boots to fill indeed.
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