A couple of years ago I remember reading how Tottenham had signed two youngsters from Sheffield United called Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton. Not only did I think ‘isn’t it funny they are both called Kyle’, I later went on to think ‘why have Spurs signed two players in the same position?’. All the talk at the time was about the potential of Kyle Naughton, which was the name I slightly recognised, Kyle Walker I had never heard of, I even googled him and it seemed that the vast resource that is the worldwide web didn’t know too much either. The chatter with Spurs fans was the same and the signings were referred to as ‘Naughton and another guy’ and that was that.
Fast forward two years and its amazing how things have changed. Kyle Walker is now the talk of the country and Kyle Naughton has become more of a ‘Kyle who?’. This shows what a story the metioric rise of Kyle Walker has been over the past two seasons. In the space of two seasons he has gone from an unknown to Spurs regular and England international, which is nothing short of amazing. What makes it more amazing is that Walker was rightly unknown by fans, as he had only ever played 2 games for the Sheffield United first team when Spurs signed him – obviously their scout at youth level had a good eye for talent.
Walker’s journey at Spurs is a textbook example of a young player developing and taking his destiny in his own hands. When Walker was signed by Spurs he was instantly loaned back to Sheffield United to continue his development, a clear sign that he was a player earmarked potentially to play for Spurs in another two or three seasons time at the earliest. Walker had a successful spell with Sheffield United, going on to play 26 times (more than when he was actually their player) before being recalled by Spurs to provide cover at full-back. Walker got little game time in this first season, but did appear in pre-season friendlies for Spurs in the summer of last year.
From the start of last season I think all football fans started to take note of Walker a little more as he moved to QPR on loan and continued to impress. QPR were a club with big backing, in search of the holy grail and a place in the Premier League, QPR were commanding a lot of media atttention and Walker was starting to get noticed with his performances. The talk was of a young right-back on loan from Spurs who had stupid amounts of pace and was good going forward, who ‘looks a player’. QPR lost Walker after Spurs didn’t renew the loan deal, even though QPR wanted to, as rumours emerged they wanted him to get Premier League experience and he signed on loan for Aston Villa.
At Villa, Walker really did have the platform and the setting to show the Premier League and Spurs what he can do and he has never really looked back. Walker managed 18 appearences for Villa, scoring 2 goals, not bad for an unknown 20-year-old. Walker has now settled as Tottenham’s first choice left back and it is tonight, as he lines up against former club Villa, that he can truly say he has arrived on the scene. Walker thrived at Villa, but it was the transition back to a club like Spurs, with their top 4 aspirations, that would be the true telling of how far the boy had come.
Ahead of Spurs vs Villa Alan Hutton, the man Walker affectively replaced, has been speaking about his opposite number “He’s always had that ability and now he’s stepping up and he’s showing it. I don’t see why he can’t go next summer (to Euro2012). If he keeps doing what he’s doing and progressing the way he has been then he’s got a massive chance”. Now not only has Walker become first choice for Spurs, he is vying to be considered number one right-back for England and should be disappointed if he continues to perform and doesn’t make the plane, especially after his Mand-of-the-Match performance for England vs Sweden.
Many players try to make this transition from an aspiring youth player to first team regular and fail, we can look at Kyle Naughton who looks a way off Walker and also John Bostock, the promising midfielder who Spurs signed young and has struggled to make an impact. It is tough out there for any young player wanting to make the break through and what should be admired is how Walker took his chance with both hands where many others can’t.
Walker is a new generation of full-back that has evolved with the tactics of the Premier League and football as it is today. The modern-day full-back now has to be as potent going forward as he is solid in defense and Walker has these attrributes. He has the speed to get him out of any situation, but more than that good decision making skills and confidence in attack which help with his end product, which will only get better. He has similar attributes to Roberto Carlos in build, running style and also technique and if he tries to emulate Carlos, he won’t go far wrong.
Maybe Walker’s success is partly due to his upbringing, he is from a council estate in Sheffield and didn’t have things easy:
“My family didn’t have much, you know, we didn’t have much and everything. From when I was 17 I moved to London, you know, and I obviously, it’s bettered my family, and I’m just grateful, really.”
Walker has taken his new found stardom and his new 5-year bumper contract in his stride and is very grounded, which could be one of the reasons he is taking everything in his stride now and relying on hard work to under-pin all he does. Walker has spoken about his upbringing: “My family didn’t have much, you know, we didn’t have much and everything. From when I was 17 I moved to London, you know, and I obviously, it’s bettered my family, and I’m just grateful, really”. Walker is the type of player that you want to do well, his character is a testament to his mum and dad, who he says he owes so much to.
Walker’s acceleration from youth team regular to England starter is nothing short of exceptional. He has all the physical attributes to compete against the best in the world. He will continue to draw comparisons to the world’s best full-back’s, past and present, the Roberto Carlos’, the Dani Alves’ and even the Ashley Cole’s of the world, it will be up to him how far he goes. One things for sure if he continues to progress at the same rate he has been, Tottenham and England could have one of the world’s best on their hands.