Walker-Peters not fazed by competition fighting for World Cup place

News Desk
Kyle Walker-Peters applauds the fans

Kyle Walker-Peters is hopeful that his analysis of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James can help him overtake them in the England pecking order.

Gareth Southgate’s side are well stocked at right-back but injuries to Alexander-Arnold and James afforded Walker-Peters his first international action in Wembley friendlies with Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

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With Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker also in contention, the Southampton defender concedes his main rivals for the position have the benefit of greater experience, including regular Champions League football during their careers.

Yet he is not fazed about the challenge of battling higher-profile players for a place in Southgate’s World Cup squad.

“The competition is tough, there are a lot of good players in that position,” said Walker-Peters.

“But all I can do is do the best I can back at Southampton until the end of the season, keep competing with those guys in terms of stats and performances and if I continue to do well then maybe I will get the call-up again.

“It definitely does not put pressure on me. I look at everyone that is in my position and that I am competing with and I try and take things from their games.

“I try and see what they are doing well to see if I need to add it to my game. But ultimately, I don’t see it negatively – I just try to use it positively to benefit myself. I’m always watching and always trying to take tips from other players.

“I’d probably say Trent and Reece James, at the moment, are really, really effective in terms of their output, their assists and goals. I think I’ve definitely improved that this season.

“There’s a few players I look at but I have to keep performing for Southampton and hopefully I can overtake those players.”

Walker-Peters started Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Swiss to make his England debut before coming off the bench in Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over the Ivorians.

He operated on the right in both games but, as has been proven under Ralph Hasenhuttl at St Mary’s, he is also adept on the left.

Having seen Trippier switch flanks for England during Euro 2020, the 24-year-old hopes his versatility can give him an edge on the competition.

“I also look at (Manchester City defender Joao) Cancelo because of playing on the left as well for my club,” said Walker-Peters.

“The boss (Southgate) has spoken to me about it. He’s watched a lot of my games where I have played left-back so he’s aware that I can do it.

“You look at Trippier at the Euros and he played left-back a few times. I think it’s something that the boss is definitely interested in and he sees it as another option to have.

“The more positions you can play in, the better chances you have. But it comes down to how I play for Southampton ultimately.”

Walker-Peters’ elevation to the England squad came after Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold, 23, and Chelsea player James, 22, pulled out.

Trippier, who swapped Atletico Madrid for Newcastle in January, is currently sidelined with a broken foot, while fellow 31-year-old Walker was overlooked despite being a regular for Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Tottenham academy graduate Walker-Peters praised the inclusive environment Southgate has created in the Three Lions camp.

“As soon as I came, Gareth was there waiting for me which straight away makes you feel welcome, makes you feel a bit more relaxed,” he said.

“And at lunch all the boys are mixing, everyone is coming to say hi and you end up sitting next to people who are five years older than you and at a different stage in their life but they are speaking to you normally and asking about things back at your club.

“When those conversations start happening on your first day you feel confident, you feel comfortable within the group.

“I think that’s the environment that this England squad has and for anyone coming into it it definitely makes them feel relaxed.”