Friday, December 9, 2022

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Walker aims for ‘biggest prize of them all’ after giving England a boost

Kyle Walker is keen to help this talented England side win ‘the greatest prize of them all’, having returned from injury just in time to go to the World Cup.

A regular starter at the last three major tournaments, it looked like the 32-year-old could watch the Qatar tournament from afar due to an ongoing groin problem.

In early September, when Manchester City played Aston Villa, Walker aggravated the situation in England’s action against Germany, and the derby clash against Manchester United on 3 October was the final straw.

“There was a tear in my groin,” said the full-back, who has 70 caps. “I have four hooks in my groin and I’ve done three repairs but it’s going fantastically well. I’m really happy with it.

“Everyone seems happy with it, we’ve been in close contact with the surgeon, with City’s medics and here as well. I just have to say a big thank you to everyone for giving me this opportunity to actually be here.”

Rehabilitation has been a bit unknown, as Walker has largely avoided injury during a career underpinned by an “I’ll never be beaten” philosophy.

“It was just my life,” he said. “Everyone writes me off in some way or says certain things.

“When I signed for Man City ‘I can’t believe they paid that much for a full-back’, X, Y and Z. That gives me the motivation to actually go and prove people wrong.

“Again, first and foremost, I have to think of myself and make sure my body is fine and can handle it, and second, I’m proving people wrong, which I love to do.”

Walker says he strives to be successful for himself and loved ones rather than proving people wrong and believes some difficult times growing up in Sheffield shaped him.

The right-back said of where he grew up “you had to survive” and stunned reporters as he opened up about the worst things he saw.

“The fire (at a neighbor’s house) was bad or someone was hung from the stairs I was walking up,” he said. “Those two were probably the ones I remembered.”

Walker was 12 or 13 at the time and didn’t see the body because police cordoned off the area next to his home, but he did witness the arson attack, which claimed a life.

“Someone just threw gas through the door … and threw in a match and that was it,” he said. “The kids got out. The janitors caught her on some blankets. Mom kicked her out. The mother was a big lady and she couldn’t get out.”

Walker’s voice trailed off as he recalled the kind of horrors he said no one should experience but shaped him into the person he is today.

“I think your path is set for you to experience certain things in life that I’ve had to go through,” he said. “Certain setbacks, certain doubts and also flights of fancy that I achieved at Manchester City.

“I feel your path is set for you and what will be, will be.”

That journey, he hopes, will see this group become the first English men’s team to win a major trophy since Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup heroes in 1966.

“Winning that is the greatest prize of all,” said Walker as England looked to build on their 6-2 win over Iran by beating Iran on Friday.

“No English team has done it since 1966 so it would mean the world to win this World Cup for any of us.

“We’re not just doing it for the 26-man squad and staff who help us on a daily basis.

“We’re doing for you and the fans who have traveled and spent their hard-earned money to get out of here and hopefully we’ve done it for everyone there when we come back.

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