Walker: I am stronger person for setbacks

Date published: Wednesday 8th June 2016 9:41

Kyle Walker England

Kyle Walker’s right forearm bears a tattoo that reads ‘to the stars through difficulties’, a motto that has never seemed more apt than it does today.

The Tottenham right-back made his England debut five years ago but has amassed just 16 caps in that time, having seen his progress stalled at different times by both form and fitness.

He was not available for Euro 2012 due to a toe injury, and was sidelined at the World Cup two years ago with a pelvic problem.

That means at the age of 26 he is getting his first taste of tournament football at Euro 2016, and could be doing so as a first-choice player having turned in a man-of-the-match display against Portugal at last week’s Wembley send off.

Whether or not he reaches the stars in France rests on how far England go at the tournament, but few would deny he has seen his share of footballing difficulties.

He had the tattoo inked at 18 years old, marking his rise from a modest upbringing he nevertheless stresses was “no sob story”.

But the sentiment applies equally to his belated arrival on the big stage this summer.

“Growing up I didn’t have much so to come from where I have come from to here – and now – is a credit to my parents and myself,” he said.

“You always have to have faith in yourself. I have been unlucky with injuries, missing out on a Euros and a World Cup.

“It always seems to be that I pick them up at the wrong time when the tournaments are coming up. I play countless games for Tottenham throughout the season, it might get too much at the end and I might pick up little niggles.

“But it’s a hurdle that I’ve come over and I think I’ve come out a stronger person and hopefully a better player after.”

Roy Hodgson has a couple of selection posers to resolve ahead of Saturday’s Group B opener against Russia in Marseille, none more marginal than Walker versus Nathaniel Clyne on the right of defence.

Walker was a peripheral figure in England’s flawless qualifying campaign, returning only for the 10th and final match compared to Clyne’s six appearances.

But he has since started three of the last four friendlies and has the added advantage of his club connection.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are all first-choice starters, while Danny Rose appears to have first shot at left-back as Ryan Bertrand continues to receive treatment on an unspecified knock.

Walker is not treating selection as a done deal but would be happy to share the pitch again with his Spurs colleagues after their third-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League.

“On paper, it’s probably not the best Tottenham team that we’ve seen but for enthusiasm and work ethic it’s definitely the best and it’s a pleasure to play with them,” he said.

“We had that question all year at Tottenham ‘could we handle the pressure’ and I think we did.

“We’ve been playing well, we’ve got a fantastic manager (Mauricio Pochettino) who puts confidence into you and lets you go out and express yourself.

“I’ve really enjoyed this season playing with the players that we’ve got here as well.

“Of course it always helps to look around and see people you are familiar with. You know their weaknesses and strengths and obviously they know yours so it’s obviously good.”

Whether he is named in the starting side or among the replacements, Walker will at least be pleased to be in the thick of things.

While England were on their way to a humbling group stage exit in Brazil two summers ago, he could not even bring himself to tune in to the games.

“When I am injured I cannot watch it. It is too difficult,” he said. “I played with my little boy during the last World Cup. I went away, chilled out.

“You look at the scores but to watch it was too painful. I want to be out there on the pitch, playing football.”

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