Ledley King is a Tottenham Hotspur legend and when he says things, we tend to write about them. The Spurs ambassador, not to mention namesake of this blog, recently gave interviews to Talksport and ESPN FC. Comprehensive in its content, King gives insights into the state of the club, its manager, its key players and, most importantly, its future.
On Comparing Different Eras of Spurs
"Throughout my time, even finishing in the top four twice in three or four years under Harry, we still weren't as solid as this team. We didn't have the same foundation. We had talent -- we could blow teams away on our day -- but we could go away from home and still lose games we should be winning.
"I don't see that in this team. They haven't lost back-to-back games all season. Every time they've lost, they've bounced back. They've shown they're made of sterner stuff."
These quotes are absolutely spot-on. The most successful Tottenham teams that Ledley played on were under Harry Redknapp and they were glorious with talent. Modric, Bale, King, and Van der Vaart were truly world-class players and the first eleven, on their day, could compete with anyone. If health and fatigue were abolished, and teams were judged solely by the abilities of a fresh first team; those Spurs sides would have pushed for the league title.
But that is fantasy, not football, and King rightly points out that Spurs have rebounded after every single defeat this term. Fitness plays a massive part in that, so does a significant increase in the depth of talent with this team, but that mentality to push forward, consistently proven throughout this season, is unmeasurable. Where that mindset comes from, well look no further than Mauricio Pochettino.
"You can't downplay just how important it is to enjoy playing for a manager. When you look at Spurs and Leicester, they look like teams that are not only solid and working hard but are also enjoying the game.
"To be honest, I would have had a problem because of the demands of his team. I wouldn't have had a problem playing football, but I would have had other problems.
"I was lucky to have Harry, because some managers wouldn't allow me not to train. Five years I didn't train, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody."
Genius and Harry Redknapp aren’t words often muttered in the same sentence, but his handling of King was undoubtedly effective. King was not just a generational defender, but a leader of men. When we look at those Spurs teams, especially with the burgeoning superstars present in Modric and Bale, King was indispensable. It's also a credit to his singular talent that he could put in massive defensive performances every week despite not being able to train. That would've ended the careers of most players.
Would this of worked out under Pochettino? Possibly not. Yet this idea is paramount to understanding who Pochettino really is as a manager. In every sense, he runs an egalitarian meritocracy. Every player has a chance, everyone must produce, nobody is larger than the club. In an era of egos and weekly wages, Poche puts his trust in those who train hard and perform on match-days. This isn’t always the case in the upper-echelon of world football.
On Key Players
"Obviously Dele [Alli] has been great and Harry [Kane] has again scored over 20 goals. But for me Toby Alderweireld, in his first season at the club, and Eric Dier, in his first season as a midfielder, have been the stand-out players for this season.
"Toby's been excellent and the full-backs are improving, maturing -- Rose and Walker are coming of age.
"It's just such a strong foundation and spine. If you want to compete at the highest level, you have to have a good spine and foundation to build success on."
Dele Alli has been a revelation, and just as impressive has been Harry Kane’s incredible sustained form, yet King hits the nail on the head with this commentary. Countless words have been spent on the ineptitude of Spurs last season and the majority of that criticism was correctly aimed at the defense. The Mason-Bentaleb midfield partnership was an abject failure, while Federico Fazio and Vlad Chiriches actually played for Tottenham Hotspur in central defense.
With the insertion of two players into the midfield and backline respectively, it is wild how quickly our defensive problems vanished. Alli and Kane grab the headlines, but Dier has been just as spectacular in his play. Toby, on the other hand, has had a fantastic defensive season, possibly one of the best years by a Spurs defender since Ledley wore the shirt.
On the Future
"[A strong team is] not something you associate with Tottenham. We've always had good individual players, but the strength is in the team at the moment.
"I’m seeing all the right signs that this is a team, not just for this season but for the future, that has the right mentality and can hopefully win the Premier League for the next few years to come.
"It doesn’t look like Leicester are going to slip up, they seem to be handling the pressure very well and credit to them. But I’m really pleased with the Tottenham team at the moment, I’m really pleased with what they’re doing and how the future’s looking."
One of the most fun things to watch this season has been the way Pochettino has crafted a squad of talented, young players that believe in him and the tactical system that he's put in place. Resurrecting Tottenham Hotspur under Pochettino was always supposed to be a medium- to long-term process, and nobody ever expected Spurs to be this good this quickly. What's exciting is that King is exactly right: there are players and structures in place already that will serve Spurs very well next year and into the future. Spurs have solid players, but they also have burgeoning youth talent, hungry, waiting in the wings for their chance. That's pretty exciting.
You can listen to the entire Talksport interview, which touches on all of these points and more, on Talksport's page.