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May 6, 2014

King's testimonial warrants fans ditch season finale

This week sees one of Tottenham’s greatest players receive a rarity in the modern game. A testimonial match.

Ledley King’s name is still sung on the terraces at White Hart Lane, two seasons since he hung up his boots. The match being played in his honour on Monday night has not sold out, several weeks since tickets went on sale.

In an era when players swap clubs as gleefully as they exchange numbers with attractive women in nightclubs, very few footballers spend long enough with one side to warrant such recognition. Those who come through a club’s youth side, establish themselves as a first-team regular and stay there until retirement are rarer still.

Manchester United have had Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, while Liverpool can boast Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. John Terry may well see out his days at Chelsea.

All of those players are legends at their respective clubs. Ledley King enjoys the same status at Spurs, where he is now the club ambassador. He’s probably the most popular player there’s been at Tottenham over the past 20 years, but with just six days until a game is played in his honour, the club have yet to find sufficient numbers of fans willing to pay tribute.

There are some mitigating circumstances that might explain the fact that the event is not a sellout. Some will argue that King would have probably left Spurs long ago if not for injuries. Indeed, I've made this claim myself, but in this context, it’s irrelevant.

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The fact is that Ledley did stay, and while he was at White Hart Lane, he was everything that you'd want a Tottenham player to be -- fair, committed, brave and above all else, brilliant. We can only deal with certainties in life, and one certainty is that Ledley King’s unique career is one that’s worth celebrating.

Some have raised the money issue. Years ago testimonial matches were a legitimate way for retiring players to line their pockets before venturing out into the real world. They didn't earn the salaries that today’s players enjoy and had to plan for their future.

This is not a consideration for King, who might not have earned nearly as much money as he could have during his playing career, but was still paid a fortune by normal standards. This match isn't about his retirement fund, with the profits from the match going to Ledley's selected charities.

Probably the most pertinent reason as to why tickets haven’t sold is because of scheduling. The game is being played on Monday, just a day after Spurs’ home match with Aston Villa.

It’s obviously going to be difficult for a lot of people to attend two games in the space of as many days. This is just another example of a decision by Tottenham’s management that makes no sense. The club drops so many gaffes these days that you'd swear that they were a government. While I understand the difficulty of attending the two games, it seems to me that the decision is a pretty easy one to make. If you can't make both, forget the Villa match and say goodbye to King.

Sunday’s match is likely to have nothing riding on it, with Spurs more or less assured of another season in the Europa League and Villa having avoided relegation. It will be followed by end-of-season awards and a chance for fans to applaud the players for their efforts. No self-respecting fan should bother to stick around for such a charade, unless there's an announcement that Daniel Levy is planning to take centre stage and make a public apology for this season’s mess.

So if you can't make both, stick your Villa ticket on StubHub -- at face value, of course -- and buy a more reasonably priced seat for Ledley King’s testimonial match instead. If you do, it will be a rare example of a Tottenham fan making a profit from the club.

You’re also likely to have a much better time. If the Villa match is like most other home matches this season, then it will be a dull moan-fest that no one enjoys. In contrast, Monday’s game will see entertainers such as David Ginola, Teddy Sheringham and Dimitar Berbatov turning out for Ledley’s XI, against the current Spurs side. There’s no prizes for guessing who the crowd will be cheering on.

It basically comes down to who you’d rather say "thank you" to. A team that have let you down at every turn this season -- quite literally in the case of Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor -- or a club legend who put his own health on the line for the sake of the side he captained.

There’s no competition. King deserves to be treated to the type of send-off that befits his regal name, and that means a fit-to-bursting White Hart Lane. Don't let him down, Tottenham fans.

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