Ledley Brenton King was arguably the finest English centre-half of his generation; a remarkable feat given some of his early co-stars in Spurs colours.
Ultimately, only injury could defeat this Rolls Royce of a defender who defied physical logic by not training during the week yet excelling in the heart of the Tottenham defence come matchday.
Over the last few years Tottenham fans have been blessed by a team with swagger and rare steel, in which Ledley played a starring role. But it wasn’t always this way. When the East Londoner from the celebrated Senrab boys club made his pro debut as a left-back in a 2-3 end-of-season reverse at Anfield in May 1999, Spurs were a mid-table outfit at best.
Yet with the emergence of this talented defender from Tottenham’s underperforming youth system, the cockerel once more raised its head with pride.
He was a rare centre-half who could win the ball without clambering over an opponent or grabbing a handful of shirt on the referee’s blindside. As a footballer, King was as clean as he was smooth. He had less bookings than Gary Glitter. Only 10 yellow cards flashed in a 13-year career. Thierry Henry once remarked that Ledley was the only defender who could win the ball off him without fouling.
Who could forget Ledley suddenly shifting through the gears to nick the ball off Arjen Robben’s feet in front of the Park Lane stand? That intervention proved crucial as Spurs broke their Chelsea hoodoo with a 2-1 victory that left Jose Mourinho irritated and bemused in the away dug-out.
King's poor performances were so few that I can virtually name them on one hand. When an opposing defender peeled away into space it was a near cast iron certainty that Ledley would retrieve the ball if in the near vicinity. He brought a rare sense of calm to the traditionally jittery Spurs backline.
When the club qualified for the Champions League with that emotional 1-0 win over Man City at the Etihad Stadium in May 2010, King was a human wall. It was as if the ball was magnetised to his frame.
Only a recurring knee injury could hamper King’s progress and this, and other ailments, limited his Spurs appearances to a relatively modest 323 including 14 goals alongside 21 matches and two goals for the England national side. But what memories he gave us.
Watching the Spurs skipper hobble up the famed Wembley steps to collect the League Cup in 2008 after the magical triumph over Chelsea brought a lump to the throat. I was fighting back the tears. Every Spurs fan knew what he’d been through to arrive at this moment. It was to be Ledley’s only trophy as a Spurs player but the image of him grinning broadly and lifting that cup is etched in our collective conscience.
Injury was to be Ledley King’s only master. But the majesty of his performances will live on in our hearts and minds forever.