Kyle Walker has begun his journey from Sheffield United ball-boy to England superstar – with particular praise for his blade-crazed grandfather.
The Manchester City and England star, 31, grew up in Sheffield as a Leeds-supporting dad.
And Walker credits his Chef Utd fandom to his grandfather, who bought him a season ticket to Bramall Lane—and a match day every week.
The right-back joined the Blades’ youth team before joining the first team, making moves to Tottenham and Man City, while becoming a key figure in two of England’s best major tournaments in recent memory.
But for Walker, his incredible career begins with his late grandfather – for whom he got an eye tattoo to ‘always let me down’.
Speaking to BT Sport’s What I Wore series, Walker revealed: “It’s weird, because my dad’s team is Leeds.
“He would say he is a fan of Leeds. My grandfather had passed away, which was a big influence on me going to Chef Utd games.
“He had a season ticket and bought me right next to him. That was the moment of the grandfather-grandson bond.
“We used to go downstairs every Saturday. He would get me a pie and we would sit and watch the game.
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“It was great memories for me in Sheffield and I think everyone knows how close it is to my heart.
“I hope to go back to the last phase of my career.”
Walker entered the Blades’ first team in 2009 – after joining the youth ranks at just seven years old – and made his FA Cup debut against Leyton Orient.
With the Chef Utd season torn to pieces and a championship playoff spot on the line, boss Kevin Blackwell turned to Walker.
The youngster played the final two league games of the season and was so impressed that he retained his spot for both the semi-finals and final stages of the play-offs – becoming the youngest Chef Utd star to play at Wembley.
While the Blades’ Premier League dreams died after a 1–0 loss to Burnley, Walker made the leap that summer after signing for Tottenham.
And Walker revealed that his career could have been so different, with Everton in the running.
The Three Lions ace continued: “[The decision] was massive. There were a few clubs for me that summer.
“There was Everton or Tottenham. But when I went to Tottenham and saw manager Harry Redknapp, he made me very welcoming.
“I said, ‘I have to go down there and play there’.
“What a good decision I’ve made. It’s put me on my way to play [Man City and England].
“To play with players like (Gareth) Bale, (Luka) Modric, (Peter) Crouch, (Germain) Defoe, (Robby) Keane, (Ladley) King… Premier League legends.”
But Walker thanked Aston Villa for ‘making you feel like a real Premier League player’ when he temporarily joined the Midlands club in 2011, after two other loan spells from White Hart Lane – a back chef Utd. in and the other in QPR.
He added: “I would not have achieved what I have if I had not experienced what I had at Villa.
“It put me on the right track, headed in the right direction… It made me feel like I was a Premier League footballer.
“To play there and achieve what I did [at Spurs] It was massive.”
In the same year, Walker was handed a debut in England against then world champions Spain.
And Walker thanked Fabio Capello – fresh from criticism of his strict regime at the 2010 World Cup – for taking a chance on him.
The City ace said: “It was a great moment. To represent your country at any level.. you have done a great job.
“To represent my country at Wembley against world champions .. I have great respect for the faith Capello showed in me.
“That was ten years ago and I’m still going strong. I still want to continue playing for my country. Those are special moments.”
In 2017, Walker made his mega-money move to Etihad – and has won three Premier League titles in his four years under Pep Guardiola, including his first season in ‘The Centurion’ campaign.
The defender admitted he’s not completely immersed in what the team has achieved – and doesn’t think about it until he hangs up his boots.
Walker continued: “The Carabao Cup, the Premier League, 100 points, the Centurion … should never have been done before.
“At that moment – and even now – I don’t really appreciate what we have achieved at the club in such a short time.
“I think when I retire and look back, I know this is a special team.”
And while his City career has gone from strength to strength, Walker has played a big part in living memory at two of England’s most successful major tournaments: the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.
But Walker reserves all praise for Gareth Southgate.
On recovering from the loss to Iceland at Euro 2016, the 63-cap international said: “The personnel we started getting … all credit goes to the manager.
“To beat Colombia – on penalties, which hasn’t been done in such a long time – and then get to the semi-finals …
“Now, two more years and we have reached a Euro final.
“That moment, at Wembley, against Germany… the atmosphere was great, all the way through.
“We can’t thank the fans enough for the love and support shown throughout the tournament.”
After a difficult patch on and off the pitch, Walker bounced back from the woods and in that position became Southgate’s No. 1 right-back on the overloaded team.
When asked about the controversy over getting his clearance – and endorsing Southgate’s belief – Walker said: “Relief. Nobody wants to go on the field and do well.
“I believe in myself. I go back as a ball-boy (in Chef Utd) and when I get a chance at Villa, I have always believed in what I can do.”
*The latest episode of BT Sport’s ‘What I Wore’ series featuring Kyle Walker is now available to watch bt sport youtube channel.
Watch Chelsea vs Manchester City live on Saturday 25 at 11:30 am on BT Sport 1th September. For more information go here bt.com/sport/football.