LEDLEY KING - MAIN INTERVIEW - CHELSEA PROGRAMME - Thursday, December 22
King Senses Bright Future
Exclusive interview with Club captain Ledley King, as he reflects on a fine 2011 and looks forward to leading his current team-mates into one of the most exciting periods in our recent history. By Jon Rayner
Ledley King has experienced highs and lows during his long and distinguished career at White Hart Lane – but he’s never been more excited about a second half of a campaign than he is right now.
A true Spurs legend and stalwart of our squad over the last 10 years, having initially joined us as a youngster and worked his way through our Academy, the 31-year-old club captain has featured in over 300 matches wearing the famous Lilywhite shirt.
During that time, he has enjoyed glorious success at Wembley, lifting silverware with that wonderful Carling Cup triumph against today’s opponents Chelsea in 2008, and endured tough times too, but Ledley believes the future of this current Spurs squad is as bright as it has ever been throughout his association with the Club.
As he looks back on what has been a tremendous 2011, bringing with it some Glory, Glory Champions League nights last term and following those up with this season’s glittering performances and results which have seen us climb up to third in the Premier League table, the Bow-born centre-half insists there is a sense of anticipation around the place of the good times ahead.
“It has been a great year to be fair and the Club has made great strides forward,” said Ledley, at Spurs Lodge this week. “When we look back on the past 12 months, we do so with a lot of pride. Our Champions League experience was a great one, coming up against the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid and we learnt a lot about ourselves in those games and from that campaign as a whole.
“We finished the season in fifth, just short of where we wanted to be, but then I think we have taken our experiences last season into this campaign and we are seeing that pay off.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of lads here at the moment, with very good experienced players and some great youngsters and the blend is just right. We are looking to do big things.”
After the disappointment of two early defeats in the 2011-12 league campaign, we sent out a statement of intent with an impressive 11-match unbeaten run which included 10 wins and one draw to haul ourselves right up the table. It’s certainly no coincidence that Ledley featured in 10 of those games, only missing the 2-1 win at Ewood Park, his presence in the side bringing not only a calming influence but also his leadership as captain, a job he carries out with the minimum of fuss but to maximum effect.
The statistics certainly stack up in his favour, but typically, Leds wouldn’t dream of taking the credit.
“The stats are not something I look at too much, I just try to do my job and make a difference,” he added. “Obviously we have been on a great run, but I try to do my best when I go out there and help the team and the other lads around me as much as possible.”
Although our fine run came to a dramatic and unfortunate end at the Britannia Stadium recently, we ensured a swift return to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Martin O’Neill’s resilient Sunderland on Sunday.
Ledley was out injured for the visit to Stoke but made a welcome return to the line-up against the Black Cats and admitted there was a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle blew on Sunday.
“The team has been brilliant this season, we went on a great run but it had to come to an end at some point unfortunately, as it did against Stoke,” Leds said. “We started the game sloppily and it was a bit too late in the second half to get back into it. But the spirit was there, we were pushing for a result right at the end of the game and there were positives to take from it.
“We knew Sunderland would come here and make it hard for us and from our point of view, it was important that we focused on that game and not the big one against Chelsea that everyone was talking about.
“We had business to take care of before we could even think about Chelsea, it was a tough game but we were delighted to come through with the three points.
“The longer the game went on you do wonder if the opening goal is going to come and there was a lot of relief when it went in, not just among the players but around the stadium as well with the fans.
“But once we got the goal, we were confident we could hold on to what we had and tried to add to it. We didn’t get the second, but I felt we kept it pretty solid from then on and although 1-0 is always a tricky scoreline, we defended well and saw the game out. It was very important to get back to winning ways, we are always difficult to beat at home and now that we’ve got past Sunderland, we can look ahead to the next one.”
And what a ‘next one’ it is, as our west London rivals Chelsea visit the Lane this evening for what has all the makings of a real Christmas cracker. It’s third against fourth, with the Blues just two points behind us in the table although we still have a game in hand and although it might be a chilly night in N17, we can expect a white hot atmosphere at the Lane as we attempt to put more daylight between us and Chelsea.
While Chelsea held the upper hand over us during Ledley’s early years as a Spur, the tables have turned somewhat in recent seasons, particularly at White Hart Lane, as we’ve won two and drawn two of the fives games we’ve played here since the day the hoodoo ended, when Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon netted on Bonfire Night, 2006.
“Chelsea have always been a tough team to play against, they are always great games and I’ve always enjoyed them,” continued Ledley. “Obviously they have quite a few of the England boys and it’s good to come up against those lads, but at home recently we have done well against them and we want to keep that going this evening.
“But Chelsea are a good side, with strong players. They struggled a little recently but you know a team like Chelsea are never going to stay in a bad period for too long, with the characters they have within their squad.
“They’ve dug themselves out when things looked against them and they will look forward to coming here tonight I’m sure and do so with confidence themselves.”
With the win over Sunderland in the bag, we too enter tonight’s game with morale high and spirits good even though there are one or two injury doubts ahead of the game, with the likes of Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe on the list.
But our squad has often been talked up this season and Ledley insists it is times like these that we prove just how strong it actually is.
“Obviously it is part of the game to lose one or two players, you know you are going to miss players at certain points in the season for whatever reason, but this is the plus side of having such a quality squad.
“We have plenty of strength in depth and I believe our squad is one of the strongest in the league. We have players that can come off the bench and perform as good as those that they replace, as Pav proved on Sunday when he came on and won us the game against Sunderland.
“We’ve got that in every position in the side and it is great to have that competition for places.”