One-team man Ledley King joined Tottenham Hotspur at the age of 14 and went on to captain the club, make 323 senior appearances and score 14 goals for them. The defender, who also earned 21 caps for England, was forced to end his playing career through injury at the age of 32 in 2012.
Starsport: How does it feel not to be playing for Tottenham any longer?
King: I am still working with the same people I spent my career with, so it is easy for me not to think about playing. Of course, I miss playing but the important thing is to keep working, keep moving. It helped to ease some of the pain of having to stop. I wish the lads all the best now but I get the perks of being inside the club and seeing the players on a regular basis.
Starsport: What are your roles as an ambassador with the club?
King: I have a variety of roles ... the main one is working closely with the Tottenham foundation. We perform a lot of good work, especially in the community. We help youngsters gain access to education and future employment, helping them through school and football.
I also travel a lot. I’ve been to Hong Kong three times in the last seven months through my ambassador role. We engage with our fans throughout the world. It feels great to come so far and still be recognised and well supported. It is important for the club to get back to these supporters from all over the world, so that has been great for me to do.
Starsport: What do you think of Tottenham’s season since replacing manager Andre Villas-Boas with Tim Sherwood?
King: I think he (Sherwood) has been very good and brought in the results immediately. He has won the Premier League (with Blackburn Rovers) so he knows what it takes. I played with him in Tottenham when I was younger and I know he is a good leader.
He brings the same leadership qualities to the team and everyone is playing for him and enjoying their football. He is bringing back the old attacking Tottenham style, which is what the fans love to see. Hopefully, we can continue playing like this to the end of the season.
Starsport: During your playing days, you helped Tottenham qualify for the Champions League. What do you think about Spurs’ chances to qualify this season?
King: Spurs have a good chance, but it is not going to be easy. We know how difficult (it is to finish in the top four) because the past few seasons we’ve been trying to make it but always fell short. With even more teams involved in the race this season, we will probably go down to the wire again in the last game. We have a stronger squad this time, and from now until the end of the season, bringing in the fringe players and expecting them to perform just as well could make the difference.
Starsport: In your entire playing career, you only collected eight yellow cards, which is remarkable for a centreback. What is your secret?
King: (Laughing) I know some players who collect at least eight cards every season!
I always trusted my speed as a young player. If I was beaten, I could get back. My mobility was my strength. I was able to twist and turn, tried to read the game and was taught from a young age to stay on my feet and make it difficult for the opponents. That was the way I played it, and there was no right or wrong way to play for me.
Starsport: Who was your role model?
King: I watched Italian football a lot when I was young and admired Paolo Maldini and Lilian Thuram.
Starsport: Towards the end of your career, you were playing through a lot of pain and had to take painkillers due to a chronic knee injury. How did you manage to maintain your form despite hardly training in between games?
King: Any player will tell you that when you are not fit, the game won’t feel the same. Any player coming back from injury will take five or six games before they feel back to themselves. Every game I played felt like that first game back, so it was a very difficult period for me. I tried to do that as long as I could but in that five years, it became more and more difficult because as I got older, my performances and level dropped below the standard I set for myself. Finally, it was just time to quit.
Starsport: Who do you think will be crown-ed the 2013-14 Premier League champions?
King: My pick keeps changing. Before the season, I said Chelsea. And then, six weeks ago I said Man City. Now, I am back to Chelsea again. But I think City will win it because they have got the complete squad. They are scoring enough goals, have a very good goalkeeper, a great defender in Vincent Kompany, and once they get Sergio Aguero fit again, they will be strong.
Starsport: Which teams do you think will qualify for the Champions League?
King: I cannot see Chelsea and Man City not finish in the top four. I will be happy to see Tottenham and Liverpool finish in there. This time, we have to take on Arsenal on the last day (of the season), and to pip them to fourth, this will be my dream.
Starsport: Why are Arsenal not in your top four pick?
King: Arsenal are a strong team with a great manager and were consistent up until the last few weeks. But they rely heavily on (Olivier) Giroud for goals and the lack of depth in the squad might catch up on them. Arsenal have done it (finish in the top four) year in year out, but the momentum at the moment is with Liverpool and Tottenham.
Starsport: Who are your relegation candidates?
King: Difficult to predict because it is very close and teams who were in the bottom like West Ham and Crystal Palace are looking strong now. I think Fulham and Cardiff are in trouble and have got work to do.
Starsport: What do you think about Tottenham’s fantastic form in the Europa League this year?
King: It is not easy because we play a lot of games in the competition. We’ve scored loads of goals and not conceded that many, but the Europa League is a bit of an endurance race.
Starsport: Will the Europa League prove to be a distraction or even derail Tottenham’s chase for a top four league finish?
King: I think any chance to win a trophy shouldn’t be a distraction. The Europa League is a big competition and any player would love to win it. All the big teams have performed well in Europe and the league. You have to get used to playing in midweek (in Europe) and then performing at the weekend.
Starsport: In your opinion, who are the favourites for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil?
King: I think this will be one of the best World Cups to watch. Germany are good, Brazil will be difficult to beat at home, Argentina have a great team, Spain are the champions and Belgium will be the dark horses. They may lack experience playing in big tournaments but they have a talented team with good team spirit.
Starsport: How about England? How would you rate the current English squad?
King: Of course, I would love to see England do well. I don’t think they are as strong as in the past, but they will play with less pressure this time. Maybe they can surprise a few people, but they are in a tough group. If they can get through (the group stage), you never know how far they can go.
Starsport: Who’s the most formidable opponent you’ve come up against in your career?
King: Thierry Henry. He had everything – pace, skills and doesn’t stay in the middle. He goes all over the pitch, into areas where defenders don’t track strikers, and then causes problems.
Starsport: Who would you rate as the best players in the Premier League now?
King: Luis Suarez and Aguero are the best strikers. In defence, Kompany and Jan Vertong-hen.
Starsport: Your pick for the best 11 in the Premier League this season?
King: Lloris, Kompany, Vertonghen, Shaw, Walker, Fernandinho, Gerrard, Hazard, Negre-do, Suarez, Aguero.
Starsport: Do you have plans to manage a team?
King: Yes, I am doing my coaching badges now. It will take a while but I want to follow in the footsteps of Tim (Sherwood) and Les Ferdinand. It is my dream to work with youngsters first and then build on from there.
Starsport: Speaking of youngsters, Spurs are not many young Asians’ choice to support as they prefer following glamour clubs like Manchester United or Chelsea. What is Tottenham doing to make the club more attractive to this group?
King: The team and the style of football are important. We always played the right way, which is attacking and attractive football. It was something which attracted me to football, watching the players of real quality who make the real difference.
Tottenham are a club of great tradition, and the partnership with AIA ensures that we will be coming out here (to Asia) more to work with young underprivileged children. Through the training programmes and tours by the Spurs first team over the next five years, I think there will be more young Spurs supporters in Asia.
Starsport: If you were not a footballer, what would you have become?
King: A boxer. I never trained to become one, but I always felt that I could have ended up as a boxer.