Ledley: A King denied his chance to reign

Likened as a boy to Bobby Moore, former Tottenham defender is not bitter despite injury-hit career

At the age of 18, Ledley King was publicly compared by a Tottenham youth-team coach to Bobby Moore. If not a particularly sensible compliment with which to burden a quiet young man who had yet to play a single first-team game, the words illustrated just how much was expected of him. In the event, how close to the summit of Moore's achievements he could have climbed will never be known because of the destructive run of injuries that terminated his career 15 months ago, aged only 31.

However well they know the whole frustrating story, readers of his new autobiography will still find themselves grimacing in sympathy as yet another comeback ends with a groin strain, broken metatarsal or jarred knee. "I'm sure any player who's suffered long-term injury will tell you there are some dark days," King said at the Tottenham training ground last week.

"You have people saying you should stop or retire. Then when you've worked really hard, you break down again. There have been times when I had to walk off the pitch and just wanted the ground to swallow me up, thinking 'no, not again'. That side is tough."

Probably not as tough, however, as some of the therapy King had to undergo, for instance after the bitter blow of tearing a groin just three minutes into England's opening match of the 2010 World Cup finals against the US. David Beckham warned him, perhaps unwisely, that the method used by an Italian medic recommended by Fabio Capello had reduced the Milan and Rangers hard-man Gennaro Gattuso to the verge of tears.

As King recounts it: "The guy applied electro pads to different parts of my body and they'd turn it up to as much as I could handle. The pads on my stomach would cramp me up and keel me over. It could well have qualified as torture." And all for what? To rejoin the squad and sit watching a 4-1 humbling by Germany in the second round.

The 45 minutes he had staggered through against the USA proved to be his last for England, while his school friend Ashley Cole went on to 100 caps and more. He would continue for two more seasons at Tottenham, grateful that the sympathetic Harry Redknapp had replaced Juande Ramos and would allow him to play once a week despite having done virtually no training.

Even then there would be a groin injury for seven months and a hernia operation in Germany, followed the next year by another knee injury and the unwanted but growing realisation that it was time to throw in the towel. But King does not believe this long series of injuries have been related, except to the extent that his "bow legs and flat feet" have always tended to put extra stress on the outside of his knees.

Although Spurs treated him exceptionally well and now employ him as an ambassador, there has been a shambolic element to some of the seven managerial appointments in his time at the club. While Jacques Santini and Ramos, neither of whom spoke good English, were telling the players one thing, their respective assistants, Martin Jol and Gus Poyet, both with ambitions to be managers, were telling them another; news of Jol's sacking as manager broke halfway through a home game, and to hear of Ramos's dismissal the players were summoned from their hotel bedrooms at 10.30pm on the eve of an important match.

King, who comes across as simply too nice to be a manager, is currently taking his coaching badges. "I think you can be quiet but effective," he says. "I want to see how much I enjoy it and I'll let my instincts guide me. I'm still finding my feet, taking in new experiences, and I've enjoyed my ambassadorial role at the club, which has helped me to come on as a person. I'm trying to have a taste of everything to see what I enjoy."

So the new Bobby Moore he wasn't, this quiet boy from Bow; but he played 22 times for England and, despite all the setbacks, he made 300 appearances in 13 years to become a Spurs legend. This is evident everywhere he goes, doing good work in Haringey with the Skills sporting and educational project.

And his conclusion about it all? "I wish I could have got more out of my career. But it could have been worse as well, so I'm not too down."

'King' by Ledley King, Quercus £18.99

Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur is at 4pm today

Suggested Topics
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower