Walker: Southgate makes you feel like the best player in the world
England lost to Croatia in their World Cup semi-final, but the Manchester City defender remains full of praise for his manager.
Kyle Walker has lauded the management of Gareth Southgate following England’s World Cup exit, insisting he makes every player feel like they are the best in the world.
The Three Lions were beaten by Croatia in Thursday’s semi-final, Mario Mandzukic scoring the winning goal in extra time after Ivan Perisic had cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s early free kick.
It means England will face Belgium in the third-place play-off on Saturday, instead of France in the final on Sunday, but Walker remains proud of his team-mates, and has singled out his manager for specific praise.
“The man’s a gentleman. That’s the best way to describe him. He’s lived in our shoes,” he told reporters. “He relates to us massively. He knows what to say at the right times and he makes you feel like you’re the best player in the world. He gives you that confidence.
And I think he needs to take the most credit out of every one of us. We’re the guys that are running on the pitch but he’s the backbone of this team. He’s made sure everyone’s stuck together through good and bad moments and made sure our feet are on the floor.
I can’t put into words how much credit he deserves for this.”
Seen by many as something of a meaningless exercise, the third-place play-off will see Southgate’s side yet again clash with Roberto Martinez’s men, the two sides having also met in the group stages.
And Walker insists that there is more than just professional pride at stake.
“There’s still something massively to play for, to be the third-best team in the world, it’s a massive thing,” he said. “And who would have thought that come the start of the tournament? Everyone was writing us off, everyone didn’t have much expectation about us.
To get to there and be in a third-place play-off… it’s fantastic. We need to take that. There’s a big pat on the back for us and we’ve still got a very important job come Saturday to go and beat the Belgians and kind of get the bragging rights over them because they got one over us in the group stage.”
England fans stayed behind after the full-time whistle in Moscow to serenade both the players and the manager, and Walker has lauded his team-mates for winning over the nation again, having been booed when they exited Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland.
“I was there in France, at the Iceland game, and it was completely different to that,” he added. “For them to still be singing, when we’re seeing friends and families chanting our names, seeing them chanting the manager’s name, it’s completely different.
And I think we need to take full credit for that. We’ve changed that. I think the team’s brought the nation together. People are going out to pubs and celebrating it and everything like that and that’s what football should be about.
It’s an enjoyable sport, we all love to play the game and fans love to support it. So it’s hats off to us but unluckily we couldn’t bring it home for them but hopefully there’s time in the future.”