Ledley Brenton King has to be without doubt the greatest centre-half to ever come through the Tottenham Hotspur youth system. Born in the East End of London in the October of 1980, King attended the Blessed John Roche RC School and had played for the well known youth club Senrab (Ledley also represented London Schools), prior to joining Spurs as a schoolboy footballer during the 1990’s. King played in the same age group as Peter Crouch as a youth player at Spurs, and Ledley’s great potential was very clear from early on. Also playing and impressing for England at youth level, right up until Under 21 level, King established himself as a key player for the Spurs youth team after signing trainee forms in the summer of 1997, and would go on to help a talented Spurs youth team win the prestigious Milk Cup tournament in Northern Ireland, in the late 1990s. Ledley’s rise through the youth and reserve ranks at Spurs resulted in him making his competitive debut for the club in a Premier League game against Liverpool, as a substitute at Anfield in 1999. During his time on the pitch in that game Ledley played at left-back. An outstanding reader of the game and a real footballing centre-half, Ledley was gradually introduced to the first team more and more as time went on, even playing as a defensive midfielder on occasions for them.
Although injuries seriously disrupted his career as it went on, Ledley would go on to become a real fan favourite. With his tremendous dedication to the game, quality in and out of possession and leadership skills, Ledley played a big part in helping Spurs to get better and better during the 21st century. Since establishing himself in the first team Ledley King produced many magnificent defensive displays at centre-half. Many moments will standout to Individual supporters from King’s more than 300 competitive appearances for Spurs at first team level. Such as that outstanding challenge on Arjen Robben at White Hart Lane in a league game against Chelsea in the 2000s, the many outstanding displays at centre-half over the years, and also captaining Spurs to winning the Football League Cup in 2008, at Wembley. He didn’t need to foul players as he was just such a quality defender, which is why he picked up so few cards during his career. However, sadly he had no other choice but to retire at the end of the 2011/12 season, because of injuries. In addition to his many Spurs appearances over the years, Ledley was also capped by his country, England on 21 occasions (he scored two goals for England during that time). Of course he would have won many more caps for England and made a lot more appearances for Spurs over the years, were it not for his unfortunate injuries. But it is remarkable that he went on to achieve such great things in the game despite his injury problems.
Ledley was awarded a testimonial at White Hart Lane in-front of the Spurs fans at the end of the 2011/22 season. He then took up ambassadorial duties with the club, before serving them as a first team coach during part of the 2020/21 season under then head-coach José Mourinho. King has since returned to his ambassadorial duties at the club, something which he does so very well at. A quality centre-half and also a gentleman of the game, Ledley King is a true Spurs legend, and someone who I feel very privileged to have watched play for Spurs over the years.
Words on Ledley from Spurs youth team teammates and ex-Spurs players:
Glenn Poole: Ledley quite simply had EVERYTHING as a player and a centre half and with those qualities that he had he could easily play in the modern day game. He could pass, bring the ball out from defence, he had pace, was strong and could use both feet. So much so he used to do all his tricks with his so called weaker left foot. If it wasn’t for the much publicised injuries it would have been Ledley and one other as the centre back pairing for England for many years. With all those playing attributes most importantly he is a fantastic bloke.
David Lee: Ledley was a Rolls Royce from the first time I saw him train I could see he was special, and talking about him over the years with teammates and coaches they all felt the same, he had everything, apart from maybe he didn’t want to head the ball! Haha, I played a few games as a sweeper behind him in the Milk Cup run when we went on to win it. He was outstanding, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone get the better of him. He was so quick, strong, fantastic close control under pressure and occasionally went on a mazy dribble from defence! Not that Bobby Arber was happy about that! He was relatively quiet on the pitch but that was when he was young. He was a pleasure to play with.
Ciarán Toner: Ledley always stood out as a player who could make it to the top. He was quick, strong, could read the game and had real technical quality with both feet. He was a real asset to the team and we always knew that when he played it would be a difficult day for any opposition striker. Unfortunately he suffered with injury even in his younger years and I have no doubt he would have played much more for his country if he wasn’t so unfortunately affected with it. It was great to see how successful he would become though and well deserved for such a great talent.
Paul O’Donoghue: Ledley was a name I heard often when I first joined in the Youth Team. He was apparently just after an incredible U20 World Cup/European Championship and all the young players just knew this guy was the next best thing. Did you hear what Ledley did in training, the players said. Did you see what he done against…. Such and such. The youth coaches as well would use Ledley as an example to watch and refer to it in training. When I got older and playing with the reserves and training here and there with the first team he was a complete defender and so calm in pressurised situations. Making the difficult look easy. A peerless defender who always had time for young players and took an interest in our development. On top of that a thoroughly good person.
Danny Foster: I was in the youth / reserves at the time and was lucky enough to train with the first team / Ledley. Ledley was pure class on and off the pitch. As a CB I looked up to him with tremendous respect, for a defender he was a very good size, naturally quick, strong and powerful. He defended first, won headers, tackles, stayed on his feet. He’s defending was to the highest level. His timing, contact and positioning were excellent making him almost impossible to beat at times. In addition to his defensive side his composure and collectiveness in possession were probably one the best ever as a CB. Both footed, 1st touch, range of pass, playing out from back, driving with the ball, he had it all. A great trait was that he always made time to talk to us young players and show support. A gentleman on and off the pitch and a true legend of club.
Andy Reid: From the moment I walked into the football club I could tell that Ledley was the one that everyone really, really looked up to. There were always different types of characters in the changing rooms, but the real leader in that dressing room was Ledley. I think that everybody knows his footballing ability and how good he was on the pitch, but what sets him apart from so many people is his qualities off the pitch. And he was always so approachable and so helpful, and he was somebody who I admired greatly, and everyone else in the changing room did as well. It doesn’t surprise me now that he is doing so well in his ambassadorial role for the club. He is somebody who is a legend at Spurs, and rightly so. For me he has all the characteristics to be a leader of the club moving forward, which I think is important as he is Spurs through and through, and you could always tell how special the relationship between him and the fans was. And also how special they held him in their hearts. It was an honour and a privilege to play with Ledley, share a changing room with him and go out on a football pitch with him. Even though it was only for a brief period of time, it was a privilege. He is a really, really special guy and somebody who I hold in the highest regard.