Kyle Walker says living out his World Cup dreams with England has blown everything else he has achieved in career out of the water – and the defender is desperate to keep the party going back home.
After ending his first season at Manchester City with the Premier League title, the 28-year-old is in Russia already ahead as Gareth Southgate’s men prepare for a mouth-watering quarter-final against Sweden.
Walker cannot wait for Saturday’s clash in Samara as he continues to live out “every little boy’s dream” with England.
“First and foremost, it has been a fantastic year for me personally, to achieve the things I have achieved – but this is the top thing that I want,” he said.
“Obviously the Premier League is done now and I’ve ticked that off, but to do something for your country and for your nation I think blows everything out of the water.
“Obviously you work all season with your club to get sat in this seat, but to represent your country I think there’s nothing better.
“Seeing the reaction from the people at home and stuff like that – shops are closing in Sheffield to go and watch the game! It’s crazy.
“You half want to be there to join in with the atmosphere but I am glad I am sat here and hopefully we can continue having a few more parties, eh?”
Walker says he never thought he would play for local team Sheffield United, never mind step out at a World Cup.
The defender’s only previous major tournament experience came at Euro 2016, which ended in a humiliating defeat to Iceland that was at the back of his mind as they dug deep to see off Colombia.
“I think it just shows what we’re like off the field,” Walker told the Lions’ Den. “I think the transmits onto the field and what we’ve achieved.
“The late goal against Tunisia got the World Cup off to a great start.
“Obviously going through the other night, which we had memories from the Euros and I am thinking when the goal goes in not again. Not again.
“When Hendo unfortunately missed that penalty, you kind of think ‘well, is this same old England?’
“Well, I think we’ve shown to the nation and also to the world the belief that we have in the camp, that we know and we trust in each other.
“We knew we were going to win that because of the belief and the hard work we’ve put on the training field has shown up in those crucial five penalties.”
Replaced by Marcus Rashford as extra-time came to a close, Walker would have struggled to take a penalty given the cramp he was struggling with.
“I feel back to normal,” he said.
“The cramp got the better of me in the later stages of the game but I think in them game situations you get a little bit nervous.
“I think probably the nervous energy went straight to my calves. But it was a positive end to the game and it was all worthwhile.”
Walker got the lactic acid out of the legs in training on Thursday and is now preparing to face Sweden – the opposition he made his first start against in 2012.
“I made my debut for England against Sweden,” he said.
“It’s come around where I am playing the biggest game of my career against Sweden, representing my country at the quarter-finals of a World Cup.”
Fabian Delph will be available again for that after returning home to be with his wife as they welcomed their third child the morning after the Colombia match.
“I’ve known him since I was about six when we used to play Sheffield United v Bradford,” Walker said.
“Spending the year with him at Manchester City and then sharing this experience with him as well, it’s been special.
“I think on his face there it says he is going to be glad to get back to us because three girls in the house plus his wife is going to be very tough for him now!”