fbpx Skip to main content

Gareth Southgate has praised Kyle Walker for maturing into a standard-bearer in England’s growing group of leaders.

There is an expectation around the Three Lions as preparations continue for Qatar having reached the World Cup semi-finals four years ago and then last summer’s European Championship final.

England will be led into the World Cup by captain Harry Kane, who is supported by a number of club captains and trusted lieutenants within the squad.

Southgate likes the leadership make-up of the group and highlighted the way 67-cap Manchester City right-back Walker has developed.

Kyle Walker speaks to Harry Kane during a training session at St George’s Park
Kyle Walker speaks to Harry Kane during a training session at St George’s Park (Joe Giddens/PA)

“You notice players maturing,” he said. “For example, Kyle Walker who isn’t captain of his club but he’s such a man within the group, on the pitch, off the pitch, and I think he’s matured a lot over the last two or three years.

“I mean, he’s won the league four times so he’s got confidence from what he’s done as a player.

“He’s been in a World Cup semi-final with us and a European final so he’s got a lot of big-match experience. But he’s definitely one who I think has matured.

“He doesn’t have to be really vocal but his manner, his determination in the way he works.

“There was a chance that Germany had where (Kieran) Trippier got up at the far post and defended it really well but if you look at Walker his desire to stop the cross, it means that the guy’s got to loft it rather than just be able to whip it in.

“They’re little things that probably the majority of the stadium probably don’t give a second thought but of course when you are looking at what wins football matches, they’re the things that win football matches.

“That hunger, that drive and he brings that and he brings that on the training pitch, so there are characters like that that aren’t club captains as well as the ones we’ve got.

“Trippier is another – organises, talks to people, helps young kids when they come in. They set the tone for: ‘This is how it is around here’.

“This is why the team at the moment have got the reputation they have because of that group and the others have to get on board and make sure their standards are at the same level.

Declan Rice, right, has impressed
Declan Rice, right, has impressed (Nick Potts/PA)

“I think we do have that and the nice thing is we’ve got young ones who are captaining their clubs – (Marc) Guehi, (Declan) Rice.

“Young ones who don’t captain but have leadership like (Mason) Mount and (Bukayo) Saka in his own way, so we’re fortunate with the group we have in that respect.”

England have different types of leaders within the dressing room, with record-chasing skipper Kane the kind that leads by example rather than bawls and shouts.

“There’s the technical and then there’s the mentality,” Southgate said of the striker’s quality. “Technically he is an incredible finisher.

“You watch players work in training and balls come at different angles and there is a calmness to that but the technique is still at top level.

“Then there’s this mentality of: ‘How do I get better? What do I need to do to be in the best condition? What is it that might add to the tools that I’ve got? Is it physical? Is it a technical practice? Is it something tactical?’

“He has just got that insatiable drive to be the best he can possibly be.

“He’s committed to living his life the right way, eating the right things, the right sort of recovery – whatever that takes, however long that takes he does it.”