Ledley King interview: Ryan Mason and I can give Tottenham an identity after rising through ranks

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Dan Kilpatrick
·5-min read
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 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Ledley King’s association with Tottenham reached a quarter of a century this year, so he knows as well as anyone that opportunities like Sunday's Carabao Cup Final have not come around as often as they should in the Premier League era.

King was captain the last time Spurs won the competition — and a trophy — in 2008, and this weekend he will be on the touchline alongside another of the club's favourite sons, Ryan Mason, hoping to end their frustrating wait for silverware.

"You just don't know when these occasions are going to come around next," King told Standard Sport. "The first time I played in a final was 2001. The next was 2008. So every time you get an opportunity, you have to grab it with both hands.

"It means a great deal. We've not won a trophy for way too long. It's a great opportunity to right those wrongs. I'm sure we go there as underdogs [against Manchester City], but it's a team we've beaten this season and a game we can win."

The club's preparations for a first domestic final since 2015 could scarcely have been more tumultuous and, for King, it has been one of the most eventful weeks of his time at Spurs.

He began Monday as part of Jose Mourinho's staff but, by mid-afternoon, found himself as a link between the Portuguese and the Mason mini-era, giving the new interim head coach information about the players ahead of Wednesday's win over Southampton.

As a self-described "club man", King was the only of Mourinho's coaches to survive the axe, but naturally formed a connection with the Portuguese after being handed his first senior role last summer. He says a season under Mourinho was the best possible crash course for a future career in management.

"I spent a hell of a lot of time with those guys," said King. "Every day for the past seven or eight months. You do form a bond.

"To work alongside one of the greats was as good as it can get in terms of an experience. I've gained a lot of confidence throughout the season in terms of having an understanding of what it takes to be a manager one day. It's been great.

"Making that transition [to coaching] was something that I had to do. I've been thrust into it, ended up in the deep end and that's given me a whole new confidence. Now I'll have to go back, retrace my steps and do the badges to enable me to continue on this path.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

"I've learned so much this season that it's probably taken me way past the badges stage, but I've got to do them, of course."

The 40-year-old is one of three black coaches on Mason's five-strong staff, with Chris Powell having also stepped up from his role in the academy and Michel Vorm returning to the club.

As the game continues a period of soul-searching over the lack of opportunities for BAME coaches, King says his club's commitment to equality is a source of great pride.

"At all age groups at the club you'll see black coaches," he said. "Walk around the training ground, you'll see black coaches. Go into the community and see the foundation coaches, most of them are black. It's not a problem here.

"Back in my playing days, speaking to a lot of ex-players then, it was a big problem. I'm glad the game is moving forward. Look at Chris Powell, working for the [England] national team [as well]. It's huge for kids across the world to see his face working on major tournaments.

"Hopefully, that inspires other young black kids who aspire to be coaches that they can do it if they want to.

"For me, that's the biggest thing. It's about people believing they can be anything they want to be with hard work. And I really do believe that you can do anything."

With Tottenham's search for a new permanent manager under way, King says conversations about his own future can wait until the end of the season.

He believes Mason's Spurs will play in a style reflective of their education at the club's academy and says winning on Sunday would leave the new manager with a better group of players.

"'Mase' wants his team to go out and express themselves, play a style of football that is a joy to watch for the fans," said King. "That's how we were brought up. That's how we came through the youth set-up. That's what he wants from his teams. He has an identity.

"We have many players who have not won anything and they're hungry to do so, so hopefully it will work out the same way it did for us in 2008.

"To have that understanding of what it means to be a winner, I do believe it improves you as a player. We've had a group of lads together for many years and I think they deserve it. It would be great to see them win it for the fans who have waited so long. The players have given everything.”

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