Kyle Walker hails Gary Neville's influence in the England camp

 

Kyle Walker has hailed the impact England coach Gary Neville has had on his game as he prepares to make his first competitive start for his country.

The Tottenham defender is poised to replace the suspended Glen Johnson at right-back for England's World Cup qualifier with San Marino at Wembley on Friday.

Walker made his debut 11 months ago against Spain in a friendly and was in contention to be part of the Euro 2012 squad before being ruled out with a toe injury.

Walker, who was named the PFA young player of the year in April, received a call from England manager Roy Hodgson assuring him he remained part of his plans after that disappointment, and is now poised to embark on a new chapter in his England career.

And the 22-year-old feels the influence of former Manchester United and England defender Neville is helping him develop still further.

Walker said: "I'm young, I want to improve, I want to become the best I can be and Gary Neville is really helping me with that aim.

"He a player I looked up to and watched often. He had a fantastic career. He gives me tips and coaches me through things. I'm excited to be working with him.

"I've always liked to go forward but he has helped massively in terms of myself improving defensively. I just want to keep on learning.

"My defending is improving every time, every week. I think it is just about experience and learning off people like Gary plus the likes of Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill.

"The decision-making has to be key. There is club level but then you step up to international level and have to be even more precise."

Johnson's absence will give Walker a chance in a meaningful game which may have happened earlier but for the injury which ended his Euro 2012 hopes.

He said: "On a personal note it is a fantastic opportunity for me to get into the team. I've been patient and waited for that.

"Hopefully on Friday I can show everyone what I can do and have a good game.

"A first competitive start is what I've been waiting for, for a long time now. For all my career, since I was seven, I've wanted to play for England, and put that jersey on.

"It's been a very up and down year for me. I won the young player of the year at club level so it's been good in that sense.

"At the end of the season it was a disappointment, having worked so hard to get into the England team, to have that little niggle on my toe.

"But it was fantastic the manager gave me the phone call, saying it was sad he couldn't take me there but saying I was in his plans and he had belief in me."

Walker, who signed a new five-year contract with Tottenham at the end of last season, can certainly not be accused of being over-confident.

He said: "I've done nothing. I'm 22. I've done absolutely nothing in my career so far.

"I had a good last season, winning the young player and a few more awards, but that's just the start and hopefully I can go on."

England will be red-hot favourites to dispose of San Marino before a sterner test against Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Walker added: "Teams will want to play really well against England and prove to the world what they can do.

"It's just a matter of us being on song and doing the basics right and not showing off and showboating and getting the three points.

"If they want to put 10 men behind the ball it's up to them, but we just have to do our job right.

"Everyone is saying it will be an easy game but it could be Real Madrid, Manchester United or San Marino. I'm going to prepare the same and put my all into it."

PA

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