Ledley King's injury-ravaged career came to an end yesterday with the Tottenham defender announcing his retirement. The 31-year-old will stay at Spurs – the only club he has played for – as an ambassador.
King, who has captained the side since 2005, has suffered from chronic knee problems in recent years, limiting his game and training time. He admitted the decision to quit was tough but he could not consider playing elsewhere. King said: "I would like to say thank you to everyone at the club and to the fans. I have missed a lot of football over the years, but the Spurs fans have always been patient and incredibly supportive with me during difficult periods.
"Sadly my injuries and inability to train have now finally brought an end to my career. I've been here since I was a boy, I have always considered it my club and have always found it hard to imagine wearing the shirt of another team. I know being a one-club man is a rarity these days, but I have always enjoyed being part of the set-up and the challenge of putting this club up with the elite where it should be."
King came through the youth ranks at Spurs before stepping up to the first team in 1998. The London-born centre back went on to make more than 300 appearances for Spurs, the high point coming when he lifted the Carling Cup in 2008 with victory over Chelsea.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy hailed King's impact at the club and said he would continue to represent them in a new capacity. "Ledley has made a magnificent contribution to this club – as a wonderful player, captain and ambassador," Levy said.
"It has been well documented how he has battled against injury over the years and it is testament to the character of the man how he managed to sustain such high standards of performance on the pitch, while providing such fine leadership.
"It is in an ambassadorial capacity that Ledley will continue, playing a crucial role in supporting the club's work in the community and the ongoing regeneration of the Tottenham area, while also being a hugely positive role model for our younger players."
Alongside his Spurs career, King also won 21 international caps for England, making his debut against Italy in 2002 and appearing at Euro 2004 and the 2010 World Cup.
Speaking about his new role with Spurs, King added: "I have been in Tottenham for around 17 years, having started at Spurs when I was 14.
"It is a second home for me and I am pleased that I can continue to work within the club and for the local community, especially after the devastation caused by the riots last year.
"I am already heavily involved with the work of the Spurs Foundation, and the new stadium scheme will be a major factor in the regeneration of the area, so I am delighted that I shall be part of that."
'A great role model': Tributes to Ledley
* Sad to hear The King has had to retire, amazing player, who made the game look very easy to play! Will be missed on and off the pitch #king26. Tom Huddlestone
* End of an era. Farewell Ledley King. A great club captain and role-model in Tottenham. Can't think of a better ambassador #thfc #coys. Tottenham MP David Lammy
* Sorry to see Ledley King retiring from football, top player. Hope he passes on some of his football skills/knowledge to the next generation. Rio Ferdinand
* Gutted the #KING has had to retire, the best defender I've ever played with or against, will be missed greatly!!! Legend. Aaron Lennon