Today Ledley King announced his retirement, here's a tribute to the Rolls Royce defender we've always needed...
Whoever Fabio Capello picks for his squad, England are destined to start the opening match of their Euro 2012 campaign without their best central defender. But it won’t be because Rio Ferdinand’s form has fluctuated, or because John Terry has been proven a racist. No. The reason will be a troublesome knee. And that knee will belong to Ledley King, no doubt sat with his feet up watching the drama unfold live on the telebox. Tottenham Hotspur’s captain proved again this week that, when fully fit, he is unrivalled in his reading of the game, his physical prowess and his calmness under pressure.
Anfield used to strike fear into the hearts of visiting defenders and, while it is fair to say it does not represent the nightmare it once did, King’s performance did enough to suggest that even Liverpool in their pomp would have troubled to rouse a sweat from King’s far-from-forrowed brow. Faced with a £35million Andy Carroll, a chomping at the bit Luis Suarez and a tigerish as ever Craig Bellamy, King strolled through the match like a Victorian squire enjoying a Sunday afternoon jaunt on a seaside prom.
Born in the same year as Terry – and having spent time at the same London junior team as the Chelsea misfit – King has managed just 258 appearance in the same time that Terry has clocked up 357. That represents almost two full seasons, cup runs included, that Spurs have been without their main man while Chelsea could happily rely on their defensive rock.
Look at the England stats and it becomes even more depressing. Since his 2002 debut against Italy, King has played just 21 times for the national side. Terry took his bow a year later, but has pulled on the Three Lions a total of 73 times. That works out at almost, but not quite, four caps for every one collected by King.
Deputising for Terry against France in Euro 2004, King showed his international class. Sadly, it was one of the few occasions he could. Injury robbed him of a slot at the 2006 World Cup and when, four years later, he looked set to finally make his mark on a major tournament, King last just 45 minutes of England’s opening World Cup match-up with the USA being limping off with a groin injury.
King strolled through the match like a Victorian squire enjoying a Sunday afternoon jaunt on a seaside prom
It seems that, after defensive linchpin, limping is King’s default setting. Which is a shame. Not just for Spurs fans, but for everyone who has ever hoped England could once again compete on the world stage.
To stop the likes of Spain, Germany and the South American giants, you need more than Gary Cahill. More than Phil Jagielka. More than just another Premier League plodder, happy to defend the edge of the box and marshall the near post. You need someone with pace, positional sense and an unswerving ability to stay calm under pressure. In short, you need someone exactly like Ledley King could be. Described by Capello as one of the best defenders in the country, King’s career has been tragically short-changed. Like a classic film cut down for cinema, only with no retrospective director’s cut year’s later.
Ledley Brenton King. The best centre back this country has produced since Bobby Moore and a man with less caps than Kieron Dyer, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Mark Wright.
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