In an interview taken from our last programme of the season against Liverpool last weekend, skipper Ledley King looks back at the highs and lows of last season.
As the curtain comes down on our 125th anniversary campaign and Ledley King looks back and analyses the last nine months, he does so with mixed emotions.
Both from a personal level and in terms of the team’s performances, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster campaign for the club captain. Injuries have restricted his appearances, but he did become the first Spurs skipper to lift silverware for nine years following the Carling Cup triumph over Chelsea.
Then, of course, there was the poor start to the season which led to the departure of Martin Jol and the appointment of Juande Ramos, followed by an upturn in fortunes as we climbed up the table and won at Wembley. Unfortunately though, that was succeeded by a UEFA Cup exit and a failure to break into the division’s top 10.
All in all, plenty for Ledley to reflect on.
“It’s been a strange season and certainly one of mixed emotions,” explained the 28-year-old centre half. “Not getting off to a very good start meant we were on the backfoot straight away. The new manager came in with his coaching team and gave the players a new lease of life. We really had to dig deep and pull ourselves out from what we’d got into and we started to pick up, our league form improved and we had good runs in the cups too.
“we went into the beginning of the season with high hopes of progressing from two fifth place finishes. Maybe over the last two seasons teams have become much more aware of us and it was tougher for that reason, but that’s something we have to be prepared for. With the quality of players we have, we just weren’t good enough in the early part of the season.”
With improved performances came some excellent results, not least the 5-1 defeat of Arsenal which booked our place in the Carling Cup Final. It was to be a memorable occasion, which culminated in Ledley leading the team up the steps at Wembley to hold aloft the trophy.
“It’s the highlight of my career, definitely,” added the England international. “The whole day was brilliant, the fans were unbelievable, the atmosphere was special. We knew that against a side like Chelsea we had to be at our best and even when we went a goal down, we still believed going in at half-time that we could turn it around.”
The belief in that dressing room during the interval is something which a number of the players have mentioned in post-match interviews, so what was Ledley’s reason for such a feeling?
“The changing room was fairly relaxed, we felt we were doing the right things. Obviously, with the type of season I’d had what with the injury problems, I was just quietly confident that it was still going to be our day, that my luck was going to come good and this was our time.”
That was certainly the case as we overturned the deficit to win 2-1 in extra time. There were a few edgy moments towards the end and in the stands, nerves were frayed and fingernails bitten, but Ledley revealed that on the pitch, he was quite calm in those final minutes.
“To be honest I didn’t feel those nerves that the fans obviously felt,” he continued. “It was just a matter of concentrating all the way to the end and I certainly don’t remember looking up at the clock too many times.
“But it was just sheer emotion at the final whistle and you just wanted to share the moment with your team-mates after the hard work that we’d put in. It was an amazing feeling and one I’ll never forget.
“Walking up the steps was a great moment too, although I remember thinking ‘when are these steps going to end’! It seemed like I did more work going up the stairs than I did in the match ! But to get up to the top and see the trophy and the fans was great. I wanted to lift it with Robbie because he’s played such a key role as captain of the side in my absence, I felt it was the right thing to do.”
But after the highs of Wembley came the lows of Eindhoven. Our assault on the UEFA Cup ended in disappointment against PSV and that feeling was amplified by the fact that the players were convinced they could go all the way in the competition.
“Having tasted success in the Carling Cup, there was a genuine belief we could do the same in the UEFA Cup,” said Ledley. “But PSV were a good side, you could see that from the first leg. They had done their homework on us and showed the experience that they had in Europe.
“But with the boss we’ve got, tactics are one of his strong points and it’s hard for teams to get the better of us over two legs, so we were confident we could go to Holland and turn it around. We did well there and had chances, so to go out on penalties was very disappointing.
“From that moment on, our league form has dipped and I have to say it’s not been nice looking at the league table. It’s been a tough season for us both physically and mentally and maybe we are just showing a few scars of that over the last few weeks.
“The league is our bread and butter and we have to improve on that next season. I’m sure the gaffer has plans and will be looking to strengthen the squad during the summer. We’ve already brought in a player of the quality of Luka Modric, so I’m confident we will really mount a challenge on all fronts next term.”
For Ledley, next season can’t come soon enough. The highlights of this campaign scarcely make up for the fact that he’s missed long periods through injury, but he’s determined to put that all behind him.
“I thought last season was tough, but this season has been even tougher,” he admitted. “I’m not going to lie, football is a massive part of my life and it’s difficult when you’re not playing week to week. But we took the decision to end my season early in a bid to get things sorted and be back in pre-season ready to go again. I have to say a big thank you to all the medical staff at the club who have really looked after me, they’ve been fantastic all season.”
Finally, in his role as club captain, Ledley wanted to praise the supporters.
“The Spurs fans have been amazing all season. They pack out the stadium every week and away from home they turn up in their thousands. Our win at Wembley was the players’ way of saying thanks and to show them just how much we appreciate their support, it’s important they know that.”
By Jon Rayner...