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King: Spurs have paid the price for pursuing ‘Tottenham way’ against top four

11:59 10 April 2014

Ledley King

Ledley King

PA Archive/Press Association Images

EXCLUSIVE: Ledley King believes that Spurs have been punished for their ambition and their attempts to play ‘the Tottenham way’ when they have faced the top four sides this season.

Former Tottenham captain Ledley King is now a club ambassadorFormer Tottenham captain Ledley King is now a club ambassador

The Lilywhites have collected just one point from a possible 24 against the teams who are currently occupying the Champions League places in the Premier League – and the aggregate score in those matches is 27-2.

Former captain King, who made 323 appearances for the club, feels the gap would have been a lot closer in each of the games if Spurs had set themselves up defensively to frustrate their opponents, but he says that approach is not in Tottenham’s DNA.

“I think the difficulty is that when you go to the top teams you can get punished very easily, especially when you believe in your own qualities and you feel you can have a go at them,” he said.

“There’s a thin line between that and leaving yourself open, and I think that’s what’s happened. We’ve been punished trying to play our attacking style of football, which means that we’ll have a go at teams.

“I think that’s the Tottenham way. The players that we’ve brought in are players who suit playing forward, attacking football. I don’t think we have the type of player who’s happy to sit there and try to grind out a 0-0 draw.

“It depends on the managers, it depends what players you have at the club and what your vision is going forward.

“We’ve seen Liverpool doing very well this season with their style, and that shows that giving the manager time – as Brendan Rodgers has had to put his stamp on the team – is paying dividends.

“This season we’ve had some heavy defeats but, all in all, take away the top four teams and we’ve been pretty consistent in beating the teams below or around us.

“We’ve had the odd slip-up but that’s the difference. If we can get a few more positive results against the top four teams then that can make the difference between finishing fourth and fifth or sixth.”

Spurs have finished fourth, fifth, fourth and fifth in the last four seasons and, having spent over £100million in the summer, there were high hopes that the Lilywhites would cement a Champions League spot this campaign – and even challenge for the title.

The fact that Tottenham are currently battling for sixth place is therefore hugely disappointing, but King points out that expectations weren’t always so high.

“For a long time it was a midtable club, and we’ve made good progress to become a team with top-four credentials,” he said. “I think this season’s been the toughest so far. Teams like Liverpool and Everton raised their levels.

“For me, the Premier League is the strongest league in the world and no team’s got any right to finish in the top four, as we’ve seen with Manchester United, the winners from last season.

“We’ve got a lot of new players who have come into the team, and they’ve taken a little bit of time to adjust to the league. I expect the club not to make too many changes, and hopefully just freshen things up with a few new faces.

“But the majority of the players will stay, having had the year’s experience in the league and I expect the club to be back exactly where it wants to be – trying to get into the top four for next season.”

Tottenham announced last week that King will have a testimonial match at White Hart Lane on Monday May 12, when a ‘Ledley Guest XI’ of his former team-mates will face Spurs’ first team.

That will pit King against Emmanuel Adebayor, and the former skipper said: “It should be fun. I didn’t mark him too often because I was always injured when he was at the club. He’s a real handful so he’s going to keep me busy.

“It will be an emotional night for me, a great way for me to say thank you to the fans for supporting me throughout my career, through some difficult times.

“It will be nice for them to see some former players back at the Lane, possibly for the last time, and it should be a great occasion.

“They’re going to be players that I’ve played with throughout my Tottenham career - players that have helped me and I’ve enjoyed playing with.

“It will be fun for the fans to see some of the players – some of them are legends in their own right at the club and it should be a real fun occasion for everyone involved.

“I’m honoured that the club have allowed me to have the testimonial, and that shows how much they respect me and value me as a player for the club - and I’ve got the utmost respect for the club too.”

Tickets for the match are now available on general sale. Visit https://www.eticketing.co.uk/tottenhamhotspur/default.aspx or call 0844 844 0102 (Option 1) to buy your tickets.

Tickets are priced at £20 for adults, £10 for seniors over the age of 65 and £5 for juniors under the age of 16. A family package for two adults and two juniors costs £40, while hospitality packages are also available. A per ticket booking fee of £1.75 (online) or £2.25 (phone) will apply.

Quickfire questions on King’s career:

Who’s the best Spurs player you played with?

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some great players over the years – the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Luka Modric. But the level that Gareth [Bale] reached in my time, and the level that he reached the season after I left, was probably the highest level I’ve seen any Tottenham player reach at my time at the club.”

Who was your toughest opponent?

“Do you know what, Jermain Defoe was a tough player for me. I was a big, tall strong guy and he was a little nippy guy. He was always a nightmare for players of my size. I played against him when he was at West Ham, and he was very sharp and got his shots off early. He’s tough for a big defender.”

What’s your favourite memory in a Spurs shirt?

“It has top be winning the Carling Cup. It’s what you dream of as a young boy, at Wembley as well. That’s without a doubt my favourite time – the only time that I was able to win something. That’s the most important moment of my career.”

And your most disappointing moment?

“There were a few, most recently losing in the FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea [in 2012]. The manner of the defeat was disappointing, tough to take.

“We’ve had a few over the years where we’ve slipped up at the last moments in trying to qualify for the Champions League, like the West Ham game [in 2006] - obviously the players were ill on that day. If we’d won we’d have been in the Champions League, so that was a big blow for us as well.”

What’s your favourite away ground?

“I think it has to be Anfield for me, because that’s where it all started. Although my first game ended in a defeat, for me to get out onto the Anfield pitch, a place with such history, and make my debut as such a young kid was a great moment.

“My favourite away performance was probably Manchester City [in 2010], when we had to go there and qualify for the Champions League. It was a great performance by the team, a perfect away performance.”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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