It was an occasion fit for a King at White Hart Lane this evening as we paid tribute to our legendary former captain Ledley King in some style.
There was an amazing turnout from team-mates past and present as well as fantastic support from our fans who filled the Lane, all wanting to pay tribute to a true Spurs great.
A full house was treated to an entertaining game featuring a glittering array of Spurs stars from our recent history including the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton, Dimitar Berbatov, David Ginola, Peter Crouch, Edgar Davids and, of course, the return to action of Ledley at centre-half. And while the scoreline was immaterial, the fans were delighted to see Ledley’s Guest XI score six times, with Louis Saha helping himself to a hat-trick and Sheringham netting a brace.
You knew it was going to be a fun evening when a Michael Dawson challenge on David Ginola was greeted by shouts of ‘off, off, off’ by the Spurs faithful, while we were treated to some fantastic delivery from wide areas early on from Ginola, Berbatov and Anderton.
The game was full of tricks, flicks and entertainment, with the first real chance coming on 16 minutes when Anderton’s chip from the edge of the area was tipped over by Brad Friedel. Then, as the players lined up for the resulting corner, Younes Kaboul and Dawson bundled King over inside the area and the man of the moment, of course, stepped up to take the penalty.
Ledley popped the ball into net past Friedel, who would have been the villain of the piece had he saved the spotkick!
Chris Perry then blocked Eriksen’s goalbound shot before Neil Sullivan produced a smart save to tip over Sandro’s flicked header from Eriksen’s cross.
Ginola delivered a majestic pass with the outside of his right foot to Sheringham, who floated an inviting cross which Berbatov just failed to meet with his head as the delightful football flowed.
And how fitting that, in the 26th minute, Ledley showed all his defensive qualities to be in the right place at the right time to block Kyle Naughton’s drive from 10-yards. A rapturous standing ovation duly followed from the stands for the man who wore the No 26 shirt with such distinction during his legendary Spurs career.
The Guest XI almost scored again when Anderton’s free-kick, awarded after Dawson upended Ginola, was drilled from 30-yards and took a deflection off a team-mate but dribbled just wide. And when Daws fouled the French star again shortly after, referee Howard Webb brandished a yellow card!
Just after the half hour mark, we were treated to a once-familiar sight at the Lane – that Anderton-Sheringham corner routine which almost paid dividends, except Sandro read the danger and slid in to block Teddy’s shot.
Sullivan then saved from Jon Obika’s close-range effort before Adebayor was brought down by a combination of Michael Brown and King and the referee awarded another spot-kick. Ade beat Sully with a twice-taken penalty…to the disappointment of the crowd!
It was all happening…Kaboul picked up Davids and carried him goalwards for reasons only Younes will know, Eriksen showcased some delightful skill when he lifted the ball onto the back of his neck and ran forwards, before Ledley’s XI regained their lead.
And it was a goal made in Spurs heaven as Anderton released Berbatov down the right, he advanced on goal before sliding the perfect square ball for Sheringham to run onto and hit right-footed first time past Friedel.
Then just moments before half-time, Friedel blocked Anderton’s shot after some neat footwork from the midfielder and Sheringham tapped home the rebound to make it 3-1 at the break.
There were a raft of changes for both sides at the interval, although the one constant for the Guest XI was, of course, Ledley himself. And there was a change to the scoreline early on too, when young striker Nathan Oduwa latched onto a throughball and dinked a lovely finish over ‘England’s No 1’ Paul Robinson to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
But it was soon 4-2 with another great breakaway goal, this time Ledley’s former Academy team-mate Peter Crouch laying a ball into Louis Saha, who cut inside and beat Jordan Archer with a smart finish.
Then on 56 minutes Ledley departed the White Hart Lane pitch for what is likely to be the very last time, the entire stadium and both sets of players giving him the send-off he so richly deserves as he took his place on the bench.
There was no let-up in the entertainment though, with Steffen Freund entering the fray for the Guest XI and immediately upending compatriot Lewis Holtby, who soon got revenge by pulling back our current coach as he burst through midfield!
Saha showed his goalscoring prowess once again 20 minutes from time when he buried his second of the night and attempted to grab a hat-trick with a 20-yard chip but Jordan Archer saved comfortably. And Freund almost grabbed his first-ever goal at the Lane with a fierce drive which Archer tipped onto the crossbar.
Etienne Capoue reduced the deficit again on 76 minutes with a 25-yard effort low into the far corner to make it 5-3, before we were ‘treated’ to some deft touches on the ball from referee Webb, although that was swiftly brought to an end by a tackle from behind Holtby. Amazingly, no card was shown!
Saha ended the occasion by smashing home a sixth for Ledley’s team, the last kick of a wonderful game and fantastic night.
Player, Captain, Ambassador, Legend…the perfect tribute to a genuine Spurs great.
Spurs: Friedel (Archer 46), Naughton (Fredericks 46), Dawson (McQueen 46), Kaboul (Ogilvie 46, Lesniak 73), Fryers (Walker-Peters 46), McEvoy (McEneff 46), Sandro (Capoue 46), Veljkovic (Holtby 46), Eriksen (Pritchard 46), Adebayor (Oduwa 46), Obika (Miller 57). Substitutes (not used): Lameiras.
Ledley XI: Sullivan (Robinson 46, Parks 80), Brown (Young 46), King (Bassong 56), Perry (Chimbonda 46, Thelwell 76), Taricco (Stalteri 46), Anderton (Fox 46), Parker (Tainio 16, Freund 61), Davids (Palacios 46), Ginola (Davies 46), Berbatov (Saha 46), Sheringham (Crouch 46).
Goals: Spurs – Adebayor pen, Oduwa, Capoue; Ledley’s XI – King pen, Sheringham (2), Saha (3).