Walker finds light at end of England tunnel

2016-06-08 10:51
kyle walker, getty, soccer, euro 2016
Kyle Walker (Getty Images)

Chantilly - Kyle Walker could not bring himself to watch England's recent tournament appearances, but he is thrilled by the prospect of starting their Euro 2016 opener against Russia on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Tottenham Hotspur player is sampling major international competition for the first time, having sat out Euro 2012 with a toe injury, before missing the 2014 World Cup due to an abdominal problem.

Named Man of the Match in last week's 1-0 win over Portugal, the right-back is expected to start against Russia in Marseille. If he does, it will be the first England game at a big tournament that he has paid attention to for a while.

"When I'm injured, I can't watch it. It's too difficult for me," Walker said at England's Stade des Bourgognes training base in Chantilly, north of Paris, on Tuesday.

Asked how he had occupied himself during the World Cup in Brazil, he revealed that he had spent time with his eldest son, Roman, who was joined by another little boy, Riaan, earlier this year.

"It was good time to have with my little boy. I went away, chilled out," he said.

"Sometimes you look at the score, but to watch it for me is going to be too painful. It's difficult because I want to be out there."

He added: "When you go into training, day in and day out, and you're looking out the treatment window, looking at the lads training, it's hard to take.

"But there's always light at the end of the tunnel, I believe that. I'm here now and it's a big light."

Signed from boyhood club Sheffield United by Spurs in 2009, Walker spent two seasons on loan before exploding onto the scene in the Premier League in 2011-12, earning him the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year award.

Despite having made his England debut as far back as November 2011, coming on as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Spain, injuries and dips in form have restricted him to just 16 caps.

The abdominal injury that kept him out of the World Cup in Brazil sidelined him for nine months, during which time Nathaniel Clyne moved ahead of him in the England reckoning.

Now, though, Walker appears close to reclaiming a starting berth, which would bear out a tattoo on his right arm, inked when he was 18, that reads: 'To the stars through difficulties'.

"It's not a sob story," he said when asked about the tattoo. "Growing up, I didn't have much, so to come from where I've come from to here is credit to my parents, and to myself as well."

Walker was a member of the Tottenham team who, under the motivational stewardship of manager Mauricio Pochettino, threatened to chase down Leicester City in this season's Premier League title race, only to fall away and finish third.

He could be one of five Spurs players to start against Russia - along with Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane - and he believes it would be an advantage for Roy Hodgson's side.

"It's always good to look around and see people that you're familiar with," he said.

"You know their weaknesses and strengths and they know yours, so it's good. But whoever does play will do fantastically well, as they've done all season to get here."

Walker also shone light on the furry lion toy that was carried into England's team hotel by centre-back Chris Smalling following the squad's arrival on Monday.

"It's the mascot that we've decided as players we wanted to bring," Walker said.

"The players nominated who they wanted to carry it and unluckily for Chris, he got it."

Asked for the animal's name, he referred reporters to captain Wayne Rooney.

"I think it was Leo, but I'm not 100 percent sure," he said. "You'd have to ask Wazza."

Read more on:    england  |  euro 2016  |  kyle walker  |  soccer

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