Prior to the friendly between Tottenham Hotspur and Seattle Sounders, Cartilage Free Captain was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview one of the legends of Tottenham Hotspur and the namesake of our blog - the one and only Ledley King. I am honestly amazed I got through ten whole minutes without turning the whole thing into an episode of the Chris Farley Show. We are grateful to Under Armor and the club for helping to arrange this interview.
And while my name's on the article, this interview was conducted along with Lennon's Eyebrow and he deserves just as much credit. Except for the questions you really liked. Those were all me. Now, without further ado, our interview with the Cartilage Free Captain himself.
Cartilage Free Captain: In the wake of the World Cup there's been a lot of discussion about youth player development here in America and I'm sure it's the same in England. You came up through Senrab FC, which produced a lot of professional English talent. What do you think is the most important thing in the development of youth players?
Ledley King: I think we're in a similar position in England and we're trying to find a way of playing or a style the youth can take on and develop a successful national team. At a young age it's about enjoying the game. The first thing is you've got to enjoy it. You've got to have a love for the game. When you love doing something then you work hard naturally to improve. What we're trying to do is develop techniques that makes the kids strong players that will last for them and obviously make the national team a success. That's what we're looking at at the moment. Trying to develop, trying to find a method or a way forward. And it's not easy, because football's always changing. It was the Spanish way a few years ago, now we're looking at the Germans and see what they're doing. We're forever trying to develop and make the kids the best they can be. But at Tottenham we have a philosophy that we stand by, a footballing philosophy, an attacking style of play, that we try to educate our kids with so that's what we're over here [America] trying to introduce as well.
CFC: The current Spurs team has a lot of young players who, for the first time since you really, look like they're going to break into the first team and make an impact. What do you attribute that to?
LK: I think we've changed a lot of what was happening with the youth. In my day, it's almost like the old days, things were different back then. Now there's a lot more attention to each individual rather than just focusing on a team of young players. Individually everyone needs a bit of tailoring. I think that's what the club do very well. It gives each individual the best opportunity to break through and I think that's why we're seeing a few of the young players really starting to come through now.
CFC: Is there any youth player, or even a senior player, that you think might surprise fans in the upcoming season?
LK: We've got some strong youth players. Obviously the youth need an opportunity to shine and what we have is a manager who has shown that he's not afraid to play the English players who have come from the youth team with what he did at Southampton. That gives the young guys here an opportunity to try and impress the new manager. Some of the players like Zeki Fryers, you know, young players, if they can perform well in preseason then there's no reason they won't have a chance to play. We've also got people like Erik Lamela, who had a lot of injuries last season. He wants to get a good preseason under his belt and impress the manager. He's still a young lad and hopefully we can see the best of him.
CFC: Speaking of our new manager, what are you first impressions of him?
LK: It's early days for me. Actually, this trip is the first time I got to sit down and speak to him and meet him. I'm still learning, but I've spoken to the players already and they're very impressed and they're already learning new things, which is good, and hopefully we'll have a style and a method that we can keep working on now and take on into the Premier League with us.
CFC: In your time at Spurs, you've seen the club transition from a mid table team that was lucky to win a cup to one that is regularly challenging for the Champions League. What has that been like for you and for the team?
LK: It's great, you know. Careers kind of go in stages. You go from a young lad trying to break into the team to trying to play regularly to being captain of the team and then trying to lead the team. I felt during my period where I was captain we were a team that was around the fifth, sixth kind of spot. The next step is to try and take it to the Champions League and we managed to do that. The only disappointment was that I was struggling with my knee at the same time when the team was at its strongest, but it was a great, it was a pleasure for me to have captained the side. It was a pleasure to taken them to their first Champions League. And now we have got to try and get back to that. Obviously we've lost a few players and brought a few new players in and it's going to take a little bit of time, but hopefully we can get back to where we were.
CFC: You've been fortunate that your kids have been able to watch you play, but when you have grandkids is there any game or moment you would show them to really demonstrate what you were about as a player?
LK: I will make them watch videos, don't worry. [laughter] No, I think you can watch highlights and you can make anyone a good player. I'd rather they sit down and watch a game and try to judge me on the game. Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed my career. The best moment by far was winning the Carling Cup. That was a game I thoroughly enjoyed and it was a good team performance. Probably that game springs to mind.
CFC: Actually that brings to mind a question. There's a lot of tension among Spurs fans over the importance of Champions League versus winning silverware and some silverware that they don't feel is important. How do you as a player feel about that?
LK: Winning a trophy is what it's about. I think we don't realize that they can be few and far between and when there's an opportunity you've got to take that. Qualifying for the Champions League was great. It was a great, great moment. It felt like we deserved it for our hard work that we put in throughout the season but nothing beats winning trophies. You can't beat that feeling. So I'd pick trophies over finishing fourth any day, but in an ideal world you want to win a trophy and you want to finish fourth. And to be honest there's no reason why the team can't do that. We've got good enough players and a big enough squad. We can try to compete for fourth place as well as staying strong in the cup competitions.
CFC: One of the reasons you're beloved among Spurs fans is because you're a one club man. Guys like Gerrard, Terry, Zanetti, they have a similar regard among their fan bases. Is there any cache to being a one club man among players? Or is it not a big deal?
LK: I think, again, it's great when you come from the youth set, but you have to be fortunate enough to establish yourself in the team. And you have to be a good enough player as well that you're a starter. You can start and come through the youth team and not get into the first team and then you have to make a decision. But ideally when you come through the youth team, that's your team and you'd love to stay at one club. I'm one of a few players that were happy to do that. You mentioned John Terry and Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. I think these players have been the heartbeat of their clubs. They were their clubs' strongest players and that's because of the passion that they had from coming through the youth set up.
CFC: One last question, we've seen you doing a lot of work in the community in North London and reaching out to fans here in America, but we know you've also been doing some work with coaching. What does the future hold for Ledley King now that you're off the pitch?
LK: I'm starting my coaching badges so I have to find how good at that I am. It's not a given. Not every player wants to be a coach but I'm interested in finding out if its something that I can be good at. And if it's something that I enjoy then I'll go 100% with that. At the moment, its still early days. I'm learning now, I'm learning my trade. We'll see in the future but at the moment I'm going to give coaching a go.