Grudgingly Admiring England’s Kyle Walker

It hasn’t been easy being Scottish during this summer’s Euros.

Our national team didn’t manage to pick up a victory in our men’s first major final since 1998! Thus we also didn’t make it out of our group.

Our oldest rivals England on the other hand have so far enjoyed a near perfect tournament.

This current Three Lions side have been hard to hate on. They aren’t as arrogant or as self entitled as previous squads.

They’ve got a youthful and exciting side. It has been a pleasure to watch Marcus Rashford become almost statesman like in the last twelve months, the redemption story of Raheem Sterling has been fascinating and it has been great to see a youthful Bukayo Saka take his chances at senior level.

Yet there’s a player there that I thought I could zone in on with my dislike.

Kyle Andrew Walker.

The defender really pissed me off last year!

With the country in the middle of the most severe of all the lockdowns, Walker showed the arrogance of England stars that had played before him by breaking the lockdown rules multiple times.

I was so annoyed by his antics that I wrote a scathing blog slating the player. I said that I believed he had let down both Pep Guardiola and Gareth Southgate and that I thought he’d struggle to regain his bosses trust.

Reports in the British press suggested that he’d never receive a call-up again with England (Source – The Metro). Many a player benefitted from the Euros being delayed by a year, maybe none more so than Kyle Walker.

Now the article I wrote was very much of that time. It was written in the heat of the moment, my wife was working almost nonstop in an ICU ward and I felt Walker’s behaviour was disrespectful. It angered me.

Looking at it now, I still believe he made a huge mistake but many made mistakes by breaking the rules during this pandemic.

To be fair to Kyle, he clearly knuckled down in training and made himself important as Manchester City regained the Premier League title.

He also made it hard for Southgate to drop him from the England squad. At thirty-one years of age, the right-back is now a veteran of this squad.

In this European Championship, for me, Kyle Walker has been one of the stars that have helped England get to their first final in this competition. He has led by example on the field of play.

The right sided defender has played in five out of six in the tournament so far and must be assured of his place in Southgate’s starting eleven for the final. The only game Kyle missed was the 0-0 draw with Scotland. In that outing us Scots won the battle of the flanks!

The semi-final win over Denmark (The Guardian Match Report) showed Walker at his best for England. Keeper Jordan Pickford looked nervy. At various times centre-backs John Stones and Harry Maguire fluffed their lines. Yet anytime the Danes managed to get onto the ball and get in behind the English backline, Walker used his pace and strength to get his side out of any trouble.

The Danish just couldn’t get a foothold down the opposition’s right side. Th England number two just used his ability and experience to repel any attack on his goal.

For me, Kyle Walker should’ve been awarded the man of the match trophy.

It was a leaders performance and it was a fine one at that. One I feel I have to praise.

The player himself has been quick to praise his international manager:

“I think when you put on an England shirt – definitely in the past four years – it means something now.”

The Mirror

That doesn’t mean he was right to break the rules last year and that doesn’t mean I’ll be happy to see him and his teammates win the tournament tomorrow night.

But it means I can salute him for getting his head down and winning back the respect of those that really matter (not me but his managers).

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