December 13 2013 Latest news:
Robin de Peyer
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
As a centre back for Tottenham Hotspur, Ledley King was one of British football’s brightest stars, until an injury cut short his playing career.
Now, the former Spurs and England player is hoping to become one of the English game’s few top level black British managers.
The 32-year-old retired last year after a career which saw him collect 21 England caps and make more than 320 appearances for Spurs, despite years battling chronic knee injuries.
To illustrate the high esteem in which he is held among Spurs fans, a song celebrating his abilities still regularly rings around the north London club’s White Hart Lane stadium.
He says hearing that song feels like a reward for his efforts during his 13-year career at the club.
“It feels almost like it justifies me going out and playing through the pain barrier … these memories will obviously stay with me forever,” said King.
But the knee problem ultimately forced him to cut his career short after long spells on the treatment table.
He credits the lessons of his childhood in the East End as one of the key reasons for his ability to cope with those challenges during his playing days.
King says: “The things you see and learn growing up … the values that you’re taught still play a big impact in my life today.
“It wasn’t poverty but my mum had to work hard to put food on the plate. This is what gave me the determination and the drive to get somewhere in my life.
“With my injury I knew I wasn’t going to be the same player I’d hoped to have been, but I knew that, even through the injury, I could still play a big part and help the team.
“It has been tough. You do have to be so mentally strong.”
King hopes that mental strength will now help him with his managerial career. Spurs are guiding their legendary former captain through his coaching badges, and he admits he feels he has plenty to bring to the table.
He says: “It’s something that I’m intrigued about. The club have been great in trying to help me to do that.”
After his dad left the family home when King, who went to the now-closed Blessed John Roche secondary school in Poplar, was still a small child, the talented youngster was left in the capable hands of his mother. He credits her as a huge influence on his career, which he played out at Spurs in a display of loyalty almost unheard of in modern football.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to become a footballer was because I wanted to make my mum proud, I wanted to give something back to her,” he said.
As a schoolboy, King played for east London club Senrab, alongside other future professionals John Terry, Scott Parker and Jermain Defoe.
King’s story, typified by hard work and an unshakable determination, might well inspire youngsters growing up in similar neighbourhoods to his, and after retiring he accepted an ambassadorial role at Tottenham, working in the area to help bring hope to youngsters.
Despite most of his friends having moved out of Bow, he admits he sometimes drives through to take a look at the playgrounds on which he nurtured his talent with hours of practice.
“I still drive through there occasionally, but there’s not much to stop for other than one friend I’ve still got there, and ‘the cage’ [playground]. Sometimes I look at the cage where I grew up playing football…”
•King: My Biography by Ledley King, Quercus, £18.99 is out now.