The sight of Ledley King pulling up when Didier Drogba was running towards the Tottenham goal in Sunday’s London derby left me with a resigned feeling of deja vu. Even on one leg, a training regime of swimming twice a week and the frailties of the midfield formation that wasn’t working, King was keeping Drogba quiet. That was the key turning point of the match for me, regardless of the legitimacy of the penalty claim.
Since King fractured his metatarsal in a Premier League back in April 2006, missing the World Cup, he has had no luck with injuries at all. Yet it’s nothing new, in the 9 seasons since he became a first team mainstay, King has played in over 30 league games in only two seasons, 2001-02 and 2004-05. Tottenham fans still regard him as one of the best of the last 20 years to play at the Lane and his staus as club captain from 2005 to 2009 recognises his contribution, on and off the field of play.
The chronic knee injury which now plagues him was caused ironically, in a training ground clash during the summer of 2006. Since then King has managed to play in only 52 League games from a possible 120 matches. It seems a cruel twist of fate that King could have been a consistently recognised player for his country, as the spat between Capello and Redknapp earlier this year showed.
As much as his injury problems have affected his playing career, Capello rightly recognises King as one of England’s best 3 centre halves and a fantastic defensive midfielder at both club and international level. What makes King’s continued appearances more astounding is the fact that his knee is inoperable. His problem is he has no cartilage in the affected knee, so he plays games with bone rubbing on bone.
At 28, it’s an incredible risk to put himself through so much on a weekly basis simply to play football. Why does he do it? After each game the knee swells up, making it impossible for him to play more than once every 6 or 7 days. The stress that must be putting on his body must be incredible. The trouble is, because he now can’t train, other area’s of his body are beginning to show signs of wear and tear. The injury to his right hamstring on Sunday seemed to just happen. He wasn’t in full flow, he wasn’t stretching, it simply went on him.
I can honestly say that King is one of my favorite players and one of the best centre halves that we’ve had at Tottenham since I actually knew anything about the game. Yes, I still rate Campbell and yet King perhaps harks back to early time in what drives him to keep going. I see so much of Gary Mabbutt’s attitude in the way King puts his health on the line for the shirt, the fans and the club.I find it astounding, I really do that he cares enough to keep going like he does.
Mabbutt, if you were unaware, is a diabetic and had to inject himself four times a day, check his blood sugar levels before, during and after games and always keep his insulin kit with him at all times. To think he played over 600 professional matches and appeared 16 times for England gives you some idea of the spirit that drove Mabbutt onward.Despite being diagnosed at 17, he continued to play, train and work diabetes in to his football routine and got to the top level of his sport regardless of how easy it could have been to give up.
Whilst King’s condition is nowhere near as serious, it gives some idea of the mental strength that he must summon every time he steps out on a pitch for Spurs. I just hope that he can keep going without causing himself permanent injury in later life. At the end of the day, it’s only football and Ledley already has a place in the hearts of the Tottenham faithful.