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God save Ledley King

Happy and glorious, long to reign over us.

Scott Heavey

Editor’s Note: it’s Ledley King Appreciation Day™ at Cartilage Free Captain. Here’s an article we did in 2014 on the day of Ledley’s testimonial match. Everything still applies.

On the day of Ledley King's testimonial, we felt the need to pay tribute to him. We named the blog after him, after all.

To say that Ledley King is one of the most important players to ever play for Tottenham Hotspur is a gross understatement. The English defender spent his entire career as a professional footballer, from his first day as a youth player to his final game, as a member of Tottenham Hotspur, amassing 321 appearances, many as captain, and won a League Cup. Yet simple statistics don't fully capture what he means to Spurs fans.

At a club built upon the ideals of gorgeous, free flowing, attacking football, the most universally beloved player in its modern era is a defender. Yet calling him a defender seems like selling him short. Few football players in any position on the pitch were capable of reading a game as well as Ledley was. We are all familiar with his more noteworthy highlights, such as scoring the quickest goal in Premier League history or THAT stop against Arjen Robben, but to truly appreciate Ledley King you had to watch him over the course of an entire game. He was not about brave last minute challenges or heroic tackles, but expertly ending an attack with a well placed toe poke or a simple shift in position. One of the best examples of this can be found below. At the end of the 2011 season, a year where his debilitating knee injury was worse than most, he kept Liverpool's entire attack, including Luis Suarez, firmly in his pocket. It is a masterclass in football and in its own way, is as incredible as any compilation of Gareth Bale setting opposing defenses on fire.

But even this does not fully explain what makes Ledley King so important to Tottenham Hotspur. To really, fully appreciate what Ledley King meant to Tottenham, you have to consider perhaps the most reviled man in our club's history. Ledley King's first season of more than 30 appearances was the year after Sol Campbell left for Arsenal in perhaps the most distasteful piece of transfer business in recent memory. Campbell was also a career Spurs player, and when he chose to leave in the manner that he did it was devastating, not just for the fans, but for a club that could realistically get relegated in the not so distant future. But then in stepped Ledley King. I don't think could sum it up better than another fan did in a Guardian piece on his retirement two years ago.

"It was as though your heart was broken, and you think you'll never love anyone again. And then the next day, the most beautiful woman in the world walks into the room."

After the bitterest of betrayals, we not only got a man who was every bit the equal of Sol Campbell, but one who's class and grace eclipsed that of his predecessor and then some. In one of the worst periods in our club's history, he wasn't just a shining light in the darkness, but a legend who helped drag this team back towards the top of English football. He was the right man, at the right place, at the right time, for the right team.

In a world where any footballer who has a good season seemingly demands a transfer, Ledley spent his entire career at Spurs. His chronic knee injury, to which this site owes its name, undoubtedly played a role in keeping him here, as it severely limited the career of perhaps the finest English defender of his generation. Regardless of what could have been, we have been fortunate to witness such a special player quite literally give us everything he had. And then some.

A single testimonial will never be enough to truly honor him, but at least for one fleeting afternoon, we were able to remember that we were all fortunate enough to cheer a man who was every inch the legend we needed him to be.