When Ledley King limped off for Tottenham after just 44 minutes during their 1-1 draw with Portsmouth on Sunday it wasn’t so much a case of Déjà vu, as Déjà vu – Déjà vu. Another failed comeback for the Spurs skipper who, after taking over Darren Anderton’s place on the treatment table, will soon be expecting the physio’s room at White Hart Lane to be renamed in his honour.
When fit, King is an exceptional defender. He has pace, power, great positional sense and his ability on the ball is twice that of the man he replaced as the soul of the North London club, Sol Campbell. But at the age of 28 his chronic injury problems seem to have caught up with him and over the past three seasons, when he should have been at his physical peak, he only managed to make 46 appearances.
Tottenham’s poor form is down to many factors but the absence of their captain and the lack of a real leader has meant that as soon as King is capable to play, he plays, regardless of whether his body is up for the demands needed to play in Premier League.
He limped off on Sunday with a hamstring injury and, despite fears that he faced another lengthy spell on the sidelines, it seems he will only be out of action for the next two weeks. But the questions over his long-term prospect will continue to be asked and at some stage soon Harry Redknapp will have to ask himself the question: How much longer they can rely on King? And whether, for the good of the team, it is time to find a permanent replacement for the captain.
Hopefully King’s latest setback will be his last one and he will be able to finish the season injury free and help drag his team away from the relegation zone. It would be a shame to see his career end at 28 and with only 19 England caps to his name.
Of course many players, who go through injury spells like the one King has been through, go on to play into their late 30’s, even Anderton has enjoyed an Indian summer with Bournemouth. Paul McGrath famously played on despite his crippling injuries, hardly ever training all while being a raging alcoholic, until he was nearly 40. King could also look down the road at Tottenham’s local rivals Arsenal and how the arrival of a better diet and new fitness regimes helped the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon all carry on well into their late 30’s.
Redknapp has a lot to sort out at Spurs and has money to spend, even after the re-signing of Jermain Defoe. Jonathan Woodgate is a very capable central defender but his form has suffered without a stable partner beside him and if King can’t prove that he is still the long-term leader of the club, then one of the hardest tasks facing Redkanpp may be letting go of his skipper.