Premier League - King: Bale will stay at Spurs and lead them above Arsenal

Tottenham legend Ledley King believes Gareth Bale will remain with the club for next season, and could inspire them to finally finish above North London rivals Arsenal.

Premier League - King: Bale will stay at Spurs and lead them above Arsenal

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Ledley King in action last season (PA)

The 2012/13 campaign was King’s first as a retired footballer, having made 318 appearances and scored 14 goals for his one and only side over a 16-year association with the club which included two spells as club captain.

As much as he enjoyed watching Spurs’ race for fourth on match day 38 last Sunday as a fan in the stands, their failure once again to finish above fierce rivals Arsenal hurt as much as it did when he was out there on the pitch.

But King remains confident that long-awaited moment of league supremacy over the Gunners is only round the corner, and believes current star player Bale will still play an integral part, despite interest from a host of European giants.

“I think Tottenham can keep hold of Gareth,” King told Eurosport-Yahoo!’s Liam Happe at the HTC/Getty ‘Inside Street Football’ photography exhibition.

“He’s a lad who wants to play his football in a happy environment and he is very happy at White Hart Lane.

“He played the football of his life last season and I think he will want to stay with the team to try and help improve things next season.

“Obviously the Champions League is where everyone wants to be but Bale sees himself as an important part of the team and as one of the leaders of the team.

“He will want to feature in Spurs’ plans for next season and will be confident that the team can get Champions League football next season.”

Welshman Bale’s superlative form this season led to many rival supporters mocking Spurs for being a ‘one-man team’, something King dismisses as being how a successful team operates.

He explained: “As players, you don’t mind if one team-mate earns all the headlines. Top players win games for their teams.

“That’s what they do, it’s what they are known for and Gareth single-handedly won a lot of games last season.

“But the level he has raised himself to this season is no detriment to the rest of the squad. Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United was another recent example, and there have been many more.

“Bale gets that free role behind Adebayor and it’s the players behind him that allow him to do that and to have the luxury to float around and hurt the opposition.

“It’s still a team effort, but within a successful team you will always have one or two standout players. Bale is definitely that player.”

King watched his club defeat Sunderland 1-0 on Sunday thanks to a late Bale winner at White Hart Lane, where he remains a club ambassador.

The former England international was as heartbroken as anyone else in the famous white shirt, fan and player alike, to learn that Arsenal had also won by the same scoreline in Newcastle and held on to fourth place.

King also admitted he was fooled as much as anyone else by the false rumours in London that the Geordies had equalised, reportedly started by former Spurs supremo Alan Sugar.

“It was the first time I’d experienced the run-in from the outside, and it was just as tense looking at it from the other side,” the Bow-born King said.

“It was a great experience as a fan in the stands trying to keep track of the Arsenal score at the same time, with all those false updates coming in. I was a victim of those, too, just like everyone else!

“We did our part in the end, but unfortunately Arsenal got their win as well.

“That’s the way it goes and it was heartbreaking. But I truly believe we will finish above Arsenal one day, soon.

“We have pushed them to the last day more than once now, and I will always remember 2005/06 when half our team got food poisoning before the match against West Ham.

“I was not playing at the time, and dodged that bullet, but when I got down to the changing room to cheer them on at half-time, they looked half-dead. They were really drained by the illness.

“This was our chance to finish in the top four and finish above Arsenal and then this happens. The lads gave their all despite that, but even though it wasn’t to be we have been knocking on the door ever since.

“The club have made positive changes, there is a top manager in place, and I really believe there is hardly anything between Arsenal and Tottenham now.

“The only thing that gives Arsenal a slight edge these days, for me, is that they have much more experience in reaching the Champions League than we do at the moment.

“But when the day comes that we finish above them, that could be the shift in power and I could see us doing it more often, perhaps even from next season.

“Arguably, we have a better squad than Arsenal. We have a manager who is young and wants to win things and redeem himself after the bad experience at Chelsea.

“The players are also playing for him, and you can see that. They are always improving and next season could be the season for us.”

The ‘Inside Street Football’ photography exhibition explores the passion and spirit of street football across ten cities in Europe and the Middle East, as shot by Getty Images photographers using the new award-winning HTC One smartphone.  England and Spurs legend King was at the opening night of the exhibition to share his experience of discovering his passion for football and honing his skills on the streets of his East London neighbourhood. (To see some samples, click here)

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