England defender Kyle Walker sits down to look back at his Three Lions career to date

After reaching the milestone of 50 appearances for England during last month's internationals, Three Lions and Manchester City defender Kyle Walker looks back on his international career as well as what's coming next...

Tuesday 03 Nov 2020
Kyle Walker won his 50th cap for England in the win over Belgium last month
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Kyle, going back to that first game against Spain in November 2011, what was going through your head?

It was a big game, because Spain were the number one team in the world back then, off the back of winning the World Cup, and we managed to win the game. To get my debut and come on, even though it was only for a couple of minutes, I was very pleased and it was a very proud moment. There's a lot of emotions running through your body because there's a lot of things you want to do and that's at the top of your ambitions - to play for your country at Wembley. I just hoped for the brief few minutes I was going on the field, to have a good performance and a few good touches and hope that it wasn't going to be the first and last.

Kyle Walker
  • Born: Sheffield, 28 May 1990
  • England debut: v Spain, 12 November 2011
  • 50th cap: v Belgium, 11 October 2020
  • Development caps: MU19s (7) & MU21s (7)

What about the journey it had taken to get to that stage? How hard was the work you'd put in?

For each and every one of us, you have to work hard to get to where you want to be in any shape of life, and believe it or not, I had a tough ride. It wasn't easy. I  was a centre-forward at Sheffield United when I signed my scholarship and there was 14 of us. I was the last one in the group to get a scholarship, and then the first to get a pro deal as a right-back. I'd been on loan to Northampton from Sheffield United before moving to Spurs and then loans at QPR and Aston Villa, before I'm now at Manchester City. For me, it's about hard work and dedication. I just want to thank the people who've helped me get to where I've been to, managers, coaching staff and family. But if you've got belief and hard work and put your mind to it, anything is possible.

What about your second England game against Sweden? A man-of the-match performance...

Again, it's going back a while but it was another proud moment. Little things like walking out with the team and singing the national anthem, I remember the fans singing it and the hairs standing up on my back. It was a big night to put in a good performance and take the man-of-the-match champagne, which I've still got at home.

What games stand out for you from the 50 caps?

I think in every player's life, there's games that stand out. Of course the good ones but you always get a few bad ones and I remember Ukraine away when I played against Konoplyanka. It's still one of the toughest games to this day that I've ever been involved in. He played really well, attacked me and I had a tough 65 minutes, but it was a good learning curve for me in an England shirt and also in my career, because I'd had a plain-sailing time up until then and that night it became difficult. Looking on a brighter note, the 2018 World Cup was an experience for me. To represent my country in a World Cup after missing a couple previously under different managers and through injury, and to get to a semi-final and help change how the nation perceived English football was a great honour. It was an achievement to be involved in that squad.

Walker in action against Sweden on his full England debut at Wembley

You missed a couple of camps in the last year, but what did you learn in that time away?

The first squad that I didn't make, it was like okay, and I had a bit of time with my family because coming off the back of a World Cup and the Nations League, it had been a tough couple of years of football. Then, when it's the second, third and fourth time you miss out, you're thinking about whether you're going to get back in again because the players that we've got and the standard that is produced day in and day out is high. You have to believe in yourself, but going back to that first game, at the time, did I ever think I'd get 50 caps? Of course I didn't think I'd get 50 caps, but I believed in myself and worked hard at my game on and off the field to make sure I'd put myself in the best shape possible to get to where I want to get to.

When you came back into the squad last month, and following the game against Iceland and red card, it felt as though you questioned whether you would reach 50 or where the sending off had left you...

It was tough, being sent off. I've only ever been sent off once playing for Manchester City against Everton and it's very unlike me to make silly challenges, which it was. And then for me to do an interview after, I felt I needed to front it up as it was no-one else's fault but mine so it was down to me to speak to the media and let everyone know what I was feeling at that point. Probably, the emotions got the best of me and it was spun on a negative that I was saying it was over but it was just what I was feeling at the time. I never believe it's over until it's over, when my legs don't go anymore and I can't run anymore - that's when I will say it's over. Until then, I'll keep fighting and knocking on the door if I'm in or out of the squad. I'll keep trying to play the football that I can play for Manchester City and that will reward me by playing in an England shirt.

In action against Colombia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Talk to us about cap number 50 against Belgium. The best one?

Do I say any cap is better than another? No, cap 50 is just as special as cap 12 for me, but to beat the number one ranked team in the world topped it off. It was a gritty performance and defensively we were very strong. There's still a few things we need to learn but playing the best teams, they're always going to cause you problems and find little holes that they can get in and hurt you. But I thought, England six years ago would lose that 3-0 or 4-0 but this England team now with the relentlessness and digging in for each other, they're a pleasure to play with.

Only 60 other players have reached 50 caps...so you're in a select group really.

It's not a bad number to be in, and a group of players to be in. It's an honour and all I can say again is thank you to my friends and family, the coaches who have worked with me from the age of six when I was probably a nightmare for them until now when I'm 30 and still a nightmare for them! But I try and be me, play with a smile on my face and enjoy the game as best as I can. I think that's when you get the best out of people. Just let us go and play with a smile on our face and that's when you'll see the best from each and every one of us as individuals and a team.

Where do you see the future going with this England team?

I think the future for this team is whatever this team wants to achieve. Obviously we have a lot of meetings about things and what we want to be recognised as and what we want to do for ourselves and the nation. But the talent in the dressing room and coming through, it's scary. Not many teams in the world can say they've got this abundance of players that are coming through with such talent. The future is what the individuals or the team wants it to be. They've got a fantastic manager, not just in terms of his knowledge of the game, but he's a people person as well. He really connects with the players which is a big bonus in this day and age. When 30 of us are turning up to a camp, you want to feel you can approach everyone and that the manager's not just your friend but he's also going to give you a b******ing and you show that level of respect to him. I feel with Gareth and Steve and the players we've got, it's endless and I wish I can still be playing when we go and achieve great things and hopefully in the EUROs, that can happen.

 

By Nicholas Veevers