King digs deep but can never win battle of wounded knee

The Spurs captain is a 'freak' who should really call it quits but backs his troops to storm the Bridge today

When Ledley King says that Tottenham's record against Chelsea is "good in recent years", it has to be understood that these things are relative.

Three wins and three draws from the last nine meetings is, indeed, an improvement on not winning any of the previous 10; but it is also true that a quiz question on Radio 5 Live last week asked listeners to name the last occasion on which Spurs actually won a League game at Stamford Bridge, where they return this afternoon. Those with short memories need not apply: the answer is 10 February 1990, when the winning goal was scored by Gary Lineker.

Spurs will travel hopefully across London, King insists, with "probably the strongest squad we've had since I've been in the team", buoyed by what was the best start to a season for almost 50 years until Manchester United brusquely terminated it last Saturday. "People are probably thinking that the bubble's burst," he said. "Playing against Chelsea does give us a chance to prove people wrong. We've got a good record in recent years against them and it's a great time for us to strike back and see where we are at at the moment."

More remarkable than any of this is the fact that King should be involved at all, let alone as club captain. For three years he has suffered from an injury to a knee that can no longer be operated on, which swells up so badly after a game that he can neither play for another week nor take part in squad training. Instead, "there's a lot of pool work, deep-water running and other methods that we use".

The swimming pool at the house of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has come in particularly handy, and when King finally makes the training pitch on a Friday or Saturday morning, he has to tread carefully. "I get carried away sometimes, which I can't [afford to] do any more. I've always loved football, was always one of those players who wants to have a kickabout afterwards. I'll still try to do that but I might get sent in because of the risk of injuries."

To the astonishment of the manager, Harry Redknapp, who calls him "a freak", King remains at 28 one of the club's most consistent performers, despite this unusual preparation. Paul McGrath at Aston Villa was the only other player Redknapp can remember playing regularly without training.

King has recently been reading McGrath's moving autobiography, of which he says: "I've got a lot of admiration for how he kept playing through his problems. I read some of the things he wrote about being injured and I can definitely relate to that. You start to doubt yourself because everybody else is fit and training on a regular basis. Things like that have helped to try to get my mind around everything and stay positive. What I can't do is be negative or feel sorry for myself because I'm sure it would affect me. I have to make sure I'm ready for that."

Grateful as he is still to have a career, there must be an element of regret and "why me?" about the misfortune that has denied him a far larger collection of England caps. Stepping in for the injured John Terry in the opening game of Euro 2004 against France, he was by common assent England's most assured performer. Three successive appearances followed at the beginning of the following season but he has managed only five international starts since and none for more than two years.

Terry has crossed his path at regular intervals since the days when they featured as 11-year-olds in the same East London boys' team, King already at centre-half, Terry "a little braveheart in midfield, but good in the air for his height". Ashley Cole, whom he will also expect to encounter this afternoon, was another young acquaintance from just across the road in Bow: "We played a lot together in the street and became friends through football. I think we both had the same dreams at a young age. You go to school, finish school and then join a club. That's the period when you don't know what's going to happen next. I probably didn't think about Ash and how he was doing until he popped up in the first team."

Terry has called today's game Chelsea's biggest test so far this season. What an examination, too, for King and his new partner at the heart of the Tottenham defence, Sébastien Bassong, signed from Newcastle, just a week after facing Wayne Rooney at White Hart Lane.

Now it is Didier Drogba, refreshed after missing the midweek Champions' League game because of suspension, of whom King says admiringly: "As a big, powerful centre-forward I think he probably is the benchmark. He can do everything, hold the ball up, score goals out of nothing with his feet or his head. It's important to double up on him and let the full-backs look after the wide men."

Tottenham, he says, will attempt to use their own qualities of pace and tempo. "I think it suits us best playing at a high tempo, going at teams. We feel our players are good athletes and pace is one of the strengths of our team. That's our best way of getting results and it's been a good weapon against Chelsea in recent years."

Better to travel hopefully or arrive? King and his courtiers will find out by teatime today.

Today's games

MANCHESTER UNITED v MANCHESTER CITY (Sky Sports 1, 1.30pm)

United are not pleased to be facing City and later Liverpool after long trips into Europe, but their neighbours' list of absentees is compensation. A shame for neutrals that the game has come this early, with the visitors below strength, though it should still be highly watchable.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v FULHAM (2pm)

Look out for the Wolves striker Stefan Maierhofer, who scored as a late substitute in defeat at Blackburn last week. At 6ft 7in it will be difficult to miss him, though his marker, the lanky Brede Hangeland (6ft 5in), will not have to crane his neck as far as most.

EVERTON v BLACKBURN ROVERS (3pm)

Whether or not the Europa League proves to be something of a nuisance as a long season wears on, Everton used it to good effect on Thursday, boosting morale in a 4-0 win and introducing Diniyar Bilyaletdinov with plenty of success in midfield.

CHELSEA v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Sky Sports 1, 4pm)

Some of Tottenham's pretensions were exposed last Saturday after Manchester United gave them the usual start. Chelsea, with Didier Drogba back to partner Nicolas Anelka, could do further damage, although their diamond midfield lacked something – width? – against Porto in midweek.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own