England boss Gareth Southgate has revealed that he was forced to talk Kyle Walker out of retirement on two seperate occasions after the fullback netted his first goal for his country.
The veteran defender found the back of the net to help the Three Lions grab a draw against Ukraine, his first goal in 77 appearances for England.
He has long been a mainstay of Southgate’s side, playing either on the right side of a back three or in his more traditional right-back role alongside teammate John Stones and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire.
It is a formula that has taken his country to a World Cup semi-final and European Championship final, though they lost on both occasions.
Now, Southgate has revealed that the Manchester City defender almost quit on his national team on two occasions, only for his manager to turn things around for him.
“I’ve talked him [Walker] out of retirement twice,” the England manager explained, “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.”
Already up to 77 caps for England, the 33-year-old has not lost any of his speed and signed a new deal with Manchester City over the summer. Still an integral part of his side for both club and country, he will be eyeing up reaching 100 caps with the Three Lions in the years to come.