The Big Interview - Kyle Walker
26 March 2015|Tottenham Hotspur
Kyle Walker is back in the England squad and determined to kick-on both on a team and personal level for the rest of this 'rollercoaster' season.
The full-back returned to first-team duties in December after the best part of nine months out with an abdominal injury.
Still only 24 but seen as an elder statesman in our young squad, Kyle burst onto the scene in 2011-12, capped with his first senior England call and the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Now with over 150 appearances for Spurs under his belt and 236 in his career, Kyle took time out to talk about his form, his time out injured, his England recall, the young players pushing through in our current squad and hopes for the rest of the campaign.
First of all, how does it feel to be back in the England squad?
Kyle Walker: “It’s been a difficult road, taken a few games to get back into the swing of things and I know I’m a little way off at the moment, but I feel I’m getting back to where I want to be. This shows that the gaffer has been watching what I’ve been doing. It has been a long time since I was selected so hopefully I’ll get a few more minutes back on the international stage and I’ll go out and do myself justice, if selected.”
Yourself and Andros Townsend are England squad regulars now – what have you said to Harry Kane and Ryan Mason, who are in the senior squad for the first time?
Kyle: “They are both mature and you can see that in their performances here at Spurs. The main thing is to keep their feet on the floor and to keep doing what they are doing. When I first got into the England squad, there was myself and Jack Wilshere as the younger players amongst the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson - there were a lot of senior players. All you can do is try to continue what you’ve been doing at club level, keep doing what has got you there in the first place and then hopefully your class will shine through.”
Harry and Ryan are one of five Academy graduates now playing regularly in the first team alongside Andros, Nabil Bentaleb and Danny Rose. What’s it like having such a young core?
Kyle: “The make-up of the squad has changed a lot since I first came to the club. I’m now one of the more experienced players and sometimes I’m having to think outside the box a little now, whereas when I first came in all I had to really think about was what I was doing, trying to play week in, week out. I could play and other lads would have to worry about me but now the roles have reversed. I’m getting older! I have to say full credit to all of the lads. Harry’s had an incredible season and keeps banging the goals in, Ryan has a very mature head on his shoulders to play in the centre of the park and Nabil alongside him has been superb. For me, he’s a top-class player and it’s scary to think how good he might be. They all keep their feet on the ground and that’s great to see.”
Below: Kyle and Benji Stambouli celebrate the win against Arsenal
What are the hopes now for the rest of the season?
Kyle: “We all believe in ourselves. Look, United wasn’t up to the standards we’ve set, it was one of those days and we were all desperately disappointed, especially myself. It took me a while to get my head around my performance, which I admit wasn’t good enough. We bounced back with a win against Leicester and we will try to finish as well as we can this season. Nothing is over yet.”
The team has been in good form - the win against Leicester made it six wins and a draw in the last 10 in the Premier League.
Kyle: “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season and that’s listening to the gaffer’s instructions and taking each game on its merits. Every team is fighting for something, whether that’s at the top or bottom of the table. All we can do is continue our form - barring that game at United - and we should be alright.”
Are you in a good place at the moment?
Kyle: “Yes, at the moment. It’s been a rollercoaster of a season, to be honest. I missed so much football but everything has gone well since I’ve been back. I’m looking to finish the season well and then get a good pre-season under my belt and start on a level par with everyone else next season.”
How tough was it to go from playing so many games (Kyle had a sequence of playing 98 of 102 matches in the Premier League up to February, 2014) to being out so long through injury?
Kyle: “The mental side of it is crazy and I found that difficult. The only positive thing was being able to see more of my young son than I would normally! It was tough and being injured can be a lonely place. But there is always light at the end of the tunnel and now I remember those dark days every time I step out.”
Have you come through that as a better person?
Kyle: “Certainly a more mature person, and a person who wants to take general life all in now rather than hitting everything at 100 miles per hour. I have to do that now I’m an elder statesman!”