The 1-1 draw with Chelsea was the first time this season that Tottenham has not taken all 3 points with the almighty Ledley King on the field (barring the match against Newcastle when he came off injured). This raises an important point; just how important is the King of the Lane to Tottenham?
There is no doubt that Ledley is the best defender on Tottenham Hotspur's payroll, and there is no doubt that he has many skills that contribute to his brilliance. But what exactly is his strongest suit?
King is without a doubt the best tackler that Tottenham have available to them, and he is arguably one of the best in the world. He is well known for his tackling ability, which he is able to bring in the big games. He tackles with confidence and precision, rarely getting it wrong. Arguably his best tackle came over Arjen Robben in the match against Chelsea on the 6th of November, 2006:
Ledley also has an exemplary disciplinary record, not being carded since the 3-1 loss to Manchester United on September 12, 2009 (37 games as of 24 December, 2011). For a player, even one who plays as sparsely as King, to not go carded in more than 2 years is a magnificent feat. On top of this, Ledley has only been carded 8 times in his career and never sent off, a testament to his discipline.
Ledley can also read the game brilliantly and make interception after interception. He also manages to block many shots that would seem to be certain goals without his presence. He is particularly brilliant against Liverpool (as though he saves his best for these games), stopping sure goals from players such as Luis Suarez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy. Also noteworthy is his tackle/block of Clint Dempsey's shot earlier this season:
King, on top of his tackling and discipline, is a wonderful header of the ball, both in attack and defence. He wins aerial duels game after game and can easily put the ball into the net off set pieces, as he has done many times in his career.
Also, Tottenham is a noticeably better side with him in the lineup. In fact, we have not lost with him in the side since August 28th, 2010, which is a wonderful record. King's leadership also noticeably raises the confidence of the players around him, and he is certainly integral to the development of our younger players, who should be inspired by his talent and commitment.
He is substantially better than all of his competitors for the centre-back position, no matter how Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul, William Gallas and, ugh, Sebastien Bassong can be on occasion. He balances his skills better than any of these players, and is a truly fantastic leader. Were it not for his chronic knee injuries, he would start every single match for Tottenham regardless, and could have been a legend for England. His international career still has time, with Euro 2012 being the most likely chance (especially seeing as he probably won't make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil). However, unless he can stay fit and prove himself superior to his competitors for the rest of the season, he probably won't be headed to Poland and Ukraine with the national team, which is unfortunate for both Ledley and England.
And all of the above points are nothing compared to the fact that he only trains one day a week. As you know, his knees swell up following a match and do not come down until about 6 or 7 days later and he often only trains with the team on the day before a match. In fact, Ledley playing against Chelsea after also featuring against Sunderland is stunning, seeing as the games were only separated by 4 days. He keeps fit mainly by swimming, which is better on those cartilage-lacking knees, but is also a stark contrast to the draining fitness schemes that most football players go through.
Harry has claimed that King will not be given a contract extension when his contract expires at the end of this season unless he manages to play 20 games or more this season. Fortunately, this looks very achievable at this point of the season, having played in 11 of Tottenham's 16 matches so far, and barring a long term injury, we should be seeing the Cartilage Free Captain wearing the number 26 at the beginning of next season.
So, I say to you all, on Christmas Eve, that Ledley King, our eternal hero, deserves our Christmas wishes. If there is one thing you wish for tonight, let it be Ledley's continued fitness.
After all, we do need our Cartilage Free Captain.