England’s big World Cup pleasure was proving people wrong, says Kyle Walker | Football

July 12, 2018 0 By news club


Kyle Walker believes England “brought the nation together” by reaching the World Cup semi-finals and proved their critics wrong in the process, with the Manchester City defender singling out Gareth Southgate as the man who deserves the credit for transforming the fortunes of a team that had been pilloried after losing against Iceland two years earlier.

Although Walker described the players as “absolutely gutted” to miss out on a place in the World Cup final, he said they could take great encouragement from the emotional scenes at the end of Wednesday night’s defeat against Croatia, when England fans showed their respect for the team’s performances in Russia by staying behind to applaud the players and singing their names.

“I was there in France, in the Iceland game, and it was completely different to that,” said Walker, recalling that chastening 2-1 defeat under Roy Hodgson. “For them to still be singing when we’re seeing friends and families, chanting our names and singing the manager’s name, is completely different. And I think we need to take full credit for that because we’ve changed that.

“I think the football has brought the nation together, people are going to pubs and celebrating, and that’s what football should be about. It’s enjoyable, we all love to play the game and fans love to support it. So it’s hats off to us. It’s unlucky we couldn’t bring it home for them, but hopefully there’s time in the future.”

Asked what the biggest thing he would take from this World Cup would be, Walker replied: “I think for me it’s proving people wrong. There’s nothing better, when people are writing you off and saying ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’, slagging people off, it’s kind of saying: ‘Well, there you go – have that back at you.’ But we do it for ourselves as well. I can’t tell you how proud I am to share the dressing room with these players. We’ve all grown up watching England and to represent your country at a semi-final of a World Cup, there’s no better feeling.”

Walker talked about a huge shift in the way that the national side are viewed after years of apathy and frustration – “We’ve brought fans back in love with the English team” – and he could not speak highly enough of the part that Southgate has played in helping to turn things around by instilling the players with the belief to go out and express themselves.

“The man’s a gentleman; that’s the best way to describe him,” Walker said of the manager. “He’s been in our shoes. He relates to us massively. He knows what to say at the right time. And he makes you feel like you’re the best player in the world. He gives you that confidence, and I think that he needs to take the most credit out of everyone of us. We’re the guys who are running on the pitch but he’s the backbone of this team. He’s made sure that everyone has stuck together through good and bad moments, and made sure our feet stayed on the floor. I can’t put into words how much credit he deserves for this.”

Although Walker said there was a feeling it was “written in the stars for you to go to the final and hopefully do something special” when Kieran Trippier scored a terrific free-kick after five minutes against Croatia, he acknowledged that their opponents were a totally different proposition in the second half and wished them well in the final.

Walker insisted England would be motivated to beat Belgium on Saturday and finish third “because they got one over on us in the group stage”, and went onto speak about using this World Cup as a platform for future success. “I think we’ve built a house here now on good foundations,” he said. “I think before probably it was built on sand. But now it’s got a good foundation, so we just need to build on that and make sure we build an empire from it.”



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