Kyle Walker says question marks over his hefty £50m transfer fee gave him the “motivation” to “go prove people wrong”.
The Manchester City right-back has his sights set on World Cup glory with England after returning from injury just in time for the tournament.
A regular in the last three major tournaments, it appeared the 32-year-old might be watching the tournament in Qatar from afar due to a persistent groin ailment.
Backed up in early September as Manchester City faced Aston Villa, Walker aggravated the situation in England against Germany and the derby clash with Manchester United on 3 October proved to be “the last straw”.
“It was a groin break,” said the 70-capped full-back. “I have four crotch hooks and have done three repairs, but it’s going great. I’m really happy with it.
“Everyone seems happy, we have remained in close contact with the surgeon, with the City doctors and also with here.
“I just have to say a big thank you to everyone for giving me this opportunity to actually be here.”
Rehab has been a bit of an unknown as Walker has largely avoided injury during a career that has been underpinned by an “I’ll never be beaten” philosophy.
“This has just been my life,” she said. “Everyone in some way, shape or form, writes me off or says certain things.
“When I signed for Man City, ‘I can’t believe they paid that much for a full back’, X, Y and Z. It gives me that motivation to really go and prove people wrong.
“Again, I have to think about myself first and make sure my body is okay and can cope with it and second is proving people wrong, which I love to do.”
Walker says he is driven to be successful for himself and loved ones rather than proving people wrong, and believes some difficult times growing up in Sheffield helped shape him.
The right-back said where he grew up “you had to survive” and stunned reporters when he spoke of the worst things he’s seen.
“The fire (at a neighbor’s house) was serious or someone was hung up on the stairs I was walking up,” she said. “Those two were probably the ones that stuck in my mind.”
Walker was 12 or 13 at the time and did not see the body as police had cordoned off the area near her home, but she witnessed the arson attack that claimed her life.
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“Someone just threw gas through the door…and threw in a match and that was it,” he said.
“The kids are out. The keepers caught them on some blankets.
“Mom threw them away. Mom was a big woman and she couldn’t go out.
Walker’s voice trailed off as he recalled the kinds of horrors he said no one should experience, but it shaped him into the person he is today.
“I think your journey is written for you to experience certain things in life that I’ve had to go through,” she said.
“Some setbacks, some doubts and even highs, I’ve achieved at Manchester City.
“I feel your path is written for you and what will be will be.”
This path, he hopes, will see this group become the first England men’s team since Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup heroes in 1966 to win a major trophy.
“Winning this is the biggest prize of all,” Walker said as England look to build on their 6-2 victory over Iran by beating the United States on Friday.
“No England team has done this since 1966, so winning this World Cup would mean the world to any of us.
“We’re not doing it just for the 26 players called up and for the staff who help us on a daily basis.
“We’re doing it for you guys and the fans who have traveled and spent their hard-earned money to get out here and hopefully when we come back we’ve done it for everyone there.
“It’s a nation. We are doing it for the nation. We’re just part of it.”
Walker says England have “earned the right to have higher expectations” with their recent tournament performances and certainly believes in his team-mates, whose international qualities he has highly praised.
“Well, I think you see the likes of Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Declan Rice,” he said.
“These players aren’t like the ones we’ve seen growing up from the England squad, where it’s about putting your heart on your sleeve and coming out and your hard work gets you through games.
“Obviously it’s no disrespect to any of the players – Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, David Beckham… these players had a range of talents, but probably not as talented as they have.
“It’s a joy that the English game is actually developing like this.”
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