Tottenham's time is now, says King

TOTTENHAM captain Ledley King believes this season represents the club s best ever chance of qualifying for the Champions League. The centre-back, who has spent his entire career at White Hart Lane...

By Ben Pearce

TOTTENHAM captain Ledley King believes this season represents the club's best ever chance of qualifying for the Champions League.

The centre-back, who has spent his entire career at White Hart Lane, feels the strength of Spurs' current squad has given him a real opportunity to finally sample Europe's premier club competition.

"I think we've got the strongest squad we've had probably since I've been in the team," King told Ham&High Sport.

"It's not just the 11 we're playing but the subs bench and the players that are missing out on the squad. This really is a strong team so I do feel this is our best opportunity.

"If we do have injuries then we have able deputies who will do a good job. We have the potential but it's about proving it."

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The question, though, is how big a part King would be able to play should Spurs achieve their Champions League dream.

His ongoing injury problems are well documented and resurfaced again last weekend when a hamstring injury forced him off the field during the second half of the Lilywhites' 3-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Manager Harry Redknapp admitted that King's injury was a turning point in the game, stripping the visitors of the only defender who could handle Didier Drogba's physicality.

Sure enough, with King in familar surroundings in the treatment room, Drogba immediately grew in stature, providing the second goal and scoring the third as Alan Hutton and then Vedran Corluka failed to cope with the Ivory Coast international.

Redknapp often muses about how good King could have been had his career not been blighted by a chronic knee injury, which limits him to one game and half a training session a week.

And the player admits that he has to constantly battle tortuous visions of an alternative reality.

"Do I look back and think it could have been a lot better? Yes, of course. But I'm still playing at the moment so all I can do is try to get the best out of the situation," he said.

"When I've finished playing I'll probably look back and think that way, but while I'm still playing I think the best idea is to try to get the best out of myself and keep going as long as I can.

"I think it's important to keep my mind clear and stay positive. What I can't do is be negative or feel sorry for myself because I'm sure it would affect me. I have to make sure I'm ready for that.

"When I do get time on the training pitch I don't want to come in. I get carried away sometimes, which I can't do any more. I've always loved football, was always one of those players who wants to have a kick-about afterwards. Still now I'll try to do that but I might get sent in because of the risk of injuries."

But King also revealed he has drawn hope and inspiration from the autobiography of Paul McGrath, who was also unable to train between matches at Aston Villa and Manchester United due to knee problems.

"I haven't spoken to him, but I've recently started reading his book," said King. "I've got a lot of admiration for how he kept playing through his problems. He played until he was 39.

"I read some of the things he wrote about being injured and I can definitely relate to that. You start to doubt yourself because everybody else is fit and training on a regular basis. Things like that have helped to try to get my mind around everything and stay positive. He has been a help even though he doesn't realise it."

King's inability to train has resulted in a pulled groin and hamstring in recent weeks, but the 28-year-old is unwaveringly positive about his future, even suggesting that he has benefited from his time on the side-lines.

"I've always loved the game, and watching it when you're out you can learn a lot," he said. "These are things I've had to do a lot recently and they've helped me on the pitch.

"Obviously when you're sitting on the sides there are things you don't realise - sometimes you have more time than you think you do. It's one of those things, you get carried away on the pitch. Coming back there are all sorts of different things that you can get from standing back and watching.

"I don't know how long I've got left to play. Last time we had a scan there wasn't much degeneration from the year before. I had the scan at the beginning of the season so in the last year it's been pretty stable.

"Hopefully, I can still play as long as I want to. I still feel I've got a lot to give and if the knee can balance itself out on an even level for a while then I still think I can play. I'd love to stay at Tottenham and see out my career.