As everyone reflects on the year just gone, highs and lows will feature in each individual’s review of 2012 and it’s no different for Kyle Walker – but he has far more peaks during the last 12 months than he does troughs.
It’s certainly been an eventful year for the full-back, one which he describes as exceeding his expectations and, to be fair, that’s as good as anyone can hope for. If you can surpass your targets for the year, then it’s obviously been a good one and Kyle’s 2012 would certainly fit into that category.
There have been setbacks along the way of course, not least suffering a toe injury which kept him out of the England squad for Euro 2012 and missing out on Champions League football as Chelsea snatched our place away from us with victory in the 2012 Final. But being crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers in April, continuing his England career with more caps and enjoying a string of impressive performances in our first team ensured Kyle will look back on the year with much fondness. But that doesn’t mean he will be resting on his laurels.
“On reflection, I would have to say it’s been a good year,” said the 22-year-old. “I felt I had a good 12 months in the Tottenham team, we’ve had some great performances on the pitch, but this is still just the start for me.
“I want to crack on from here, improve in each and every game and make sure this isn’t as good as it gets for me.
“Overall, I’d say the year was better than I had expected it to be and I’m delighted with how it’s gone. If you’d said to me on January 1 last year that 2012 would have panned out the way it did, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I would have taken it all day long!
“In fact, if you’d told me when I was first starting out as a seven-year-old at Sheffield United, that by the time I was 22 I would win the PFA Young Player of the Year award and be a Premier League regular, I would have thought you were having me on!
“I honestly didn’t think I had a chance of winning the young player award, I was very proud to receive it,” added Kyle. “I always felt, when I went to Aston Villa on loan, that I could do a job in the Premier League and people believed in me. Football is a game of confidence, if you have that and the people around you believe in you, it gives you the confidence to go out and play football the best you can and that’s what I did.
“Last year was just a continuation of that and both managers we’ve had here during 2012 have each shown faith in me, so that’s helped me so much on the pitch.
“I suppose my bar has been set high now, so I have to work hard to maintain that standard, but that’s a challenge I relish and as I said, hopefully this is just the start of my career and I can keep on achieving bigger and better things, including winning trophies with Spurs.”
So with a number of things to choose from, what would Kyle select as his own personal highlight of the last 12 months?
“It’s a tough one to be honest,” he said. “I played a couple of times for England during the year and it’s always an absolute honour to play for my country, something I dreamt of as a youngster. But to be chosen by the players you come up against week in, week out as being the best young player in the division, that was special, something I will always remember.
“But it hasn’t all been good to be fair. If I hadn’t broken my toe, I would have gone to the Euros and it could have been an even better year for me, but that’s football and you have to take those setbacks.
“It was the same when Chelsea won the Champions League and denied us a place in this season’s competition,” added Kyle. “We had a good season and achieved our aim of finishing fourth, only to miss out. But you have to take your hat off to Chelsea, had we won it, we would have wanted to defend the trophy.
“But we’re over that now and concentrating on this season. And there’s no reason why we can’t target a third place finish and guarantee Champions League football next season. There’s no reason why we can’t...with the players we have here and the gaffer and his coaching staff, we’ve more than enough to achieve that.”
Kyle is certainly playing his part this season as we target a top four spot as a minimum. The Sheffield-born defender has featured in all but one of our games this season – the 3-0 win at Fulham – as he attempts to maintain the high level of performances that saw him acknowledged by his peers last season and has seen him elevated to international status.
But he admits that, because the bar has been raised in terms of his own standard, it perhaps gets noticed more when he occasionally drops below that level in matches.
“I just think the people’s expectations of me now are quite high because of last season, so if I do have a bad game it’s seems to get highlighted more,” he explained. “Maybe people forget that I’m still only 22 and, apart from the likes of Steven Caulker, Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend, I’m the youngest in the squad!
“I’m not using my age as an excuse and I’m the first to expect a high standard of performance from myself, but if I had broken into the Tottenham team this season people would probably be saying how great it is that I’m getting a chance, how well I’d settled in.
“A lot more is expected of me after last season though. This is still only my second full season in the Premier League and I’m still learning, trying to get to where I want to be. It will take time, patience and plenty more hard work.
“It’s all a learning curve still. When I have a bad game, I shouldn’t let it get to me, but I do. I’m on the phone to my dad afterwards, saying ‘why did I do that, I can’t believe I did this’ or whatever. But he’ll tell me that I’m still a relatively young player, playing against some of the world’s best players and I might make mistakes from time to time.
“The good thing is I can always put it right, by working hard in training and learning from any mistakes. That’s what will make me a better player.”