Walker bagged his first England goal in a 77th appearance for his country against Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifier at the weekend, but it was a moment he almost didn’t experience as he considered walking away from international duty twice over the past two years.
“I’ve talked [Walker] out of retirement twice,” Southgate confessed after the Ukraine game. “After the Euros and after the World Cup.
“I think he loves being here, he’s wanted to keep going and now he’s thinking about how many caps he can get. He’s critical to us. If we’re talking about world‑class players in their position in our team then he’s probably one of them.
“I think he didn’t realise how much value we have for him and how important he is for us.”
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Walker himself did not shy away from his thoughts and offered his reasons for considering his future with England.
“Obviously, in a moment, at the time that me and Gareth spoke, the likes of Trent [Alexander-Arnold], Tripps [Kieran Trippier], Reece James coming through, you do think your days are numbered,” Walker said. “And to sacrifice how many holidays and summers that I’ve sacrificed? I’ve been doing this since I was 19. I’m 33 now.
“Me and Gareth have a good relationship off the field. We do speak and I feel that I can still bring something to the team. So why stop?”
Southgate continued: “Kyle has got better with age. Not only playing but also around the training, the way I hear him speak when he’s interviewed, his influence on the group, the younger players. He’s become a really mature leader for us.
“I think he’s enjoying the extra responsibility he’s had at his club and I know he’s ready to embrace that with us as well.”
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