Kyle Walker’s private life is a sideshow England could really do without

Kyle Walker’s private life is a sideshow England could really do without

Gareth Southgate will have anticipated a day of working on his embattled England squad, a key training session realigning their faulty press and perhaps some frank conversations with players, although not of the kind he may now need to have with Kyle Walker.

The great 85-cap all-conquering right-back from Manchester City is Southgate’s vice-captain and one of English football’s biggest figures. Yet once again his chaotic private life has caught up with him. The mother to the two children he had fathered away from the four he has with wife Annie turned up to Thursday’s game in Frankfurt, and the details of her trip with the older of her two children with Walker were laid out in excruciating detail in the Daily Mail.

It was certainly the kind of coverage that marked England tournaments of bygone eras such as the Hostess Isabella scandal of the 1990 World Cup finals. In public, football people – managers, players, executives – habitually pretend to ignore the occasional trysts or scandals as if they were simply beneath comment or do not even exist. In reality, the story will be read all over England’s training base and Southgate will know he has to address it with Walker.

The bare facts of it are that the oldest of the two children Walker, 34, has with the influencer Lauryn Goodman was brought by her to the Denmark game in Frankfurt. Goodman was accompanied by a Daily Mail reporter and chronicled her thoughts on Walker, his conduct towards her children, as well as his wife, and much else, for the benefit of readers.

Of course, the missteps of famous people have, for time immemorial, been of great interest to the public at large. The sadness of this one is the six Walker children, their names forever connected with this family crisis that has played out so publicly and will live forever on the internet as they move into adulthood. For Southgate that is an issue for others to concern themselves with – he has a Euros to get back on track.

As a manager who has always tried to address his players’ most deep-seated concerns – and try to defeat the psychological obstacles – this one will be impossible to ignore. The likelihood is that he will ask his vice-captain if a supportive conversation is required. As a member of the much-vaunted leadership group, along with Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, Walker would ordinarily be the man who might be dispatched to speak to a player facing this kind of situation. Unfortunately, and not for the first time, it is him.

The England team is certainly no stranger to scandals of this kind. The John Terry-Wayne Bridge saga of the previous decade saw Terry lose the captaincy temporarily. He did come back from that, only to lose the captaincy again over the Anton Ferdinand saga. The politics and timing of the court hearing and the Football Association hearing into that matter – and how they collided with Euro 2012 – would ultimately end the reign of Fabio Capello. Southgate’s era has been mercifully free of such concerns.

The problem with the Terry situation was that it relentlessly developed unforeseen circumstances, not least when his trial at Westminster magistrates was delayed until after Euro 2012. This latest instalment around Walker’s life had not changed the issue other than to thrust it centre-stage again. Walker seems to be able to play through any crisis in his personal life with the old footballer’s maxim that being out on the pitch is at least a place of respite.

Kyle Walker’s private life is a sideshow England could really do withoutKyle Walker’s private life is a sideshow England could really do without

Annie Kilner has four children with the England right-back – Euro 2024 News Pool

Yet Southgate will have to deal with this issue, both internally and externally. Walker’s mistakes in his private life are not new revelations but the moral aspect of his behaviour is amplified when on England duty. He is certainly not the first, and the Football Association is long past its most censorious days, but that kind of thing still matters to it.

Walker has been a good senior player at Manchester City. Above all, he has been a force on the pitch for seven years. He stepped up as captain this season, especially during the December wobble which turned out to be brief indeed. Not all agreed with the sentiments of his post-match interview with the BBC on Thursday but as most officials at clubs and national associations will tell you – it is hard enough to persuade any player to speak after one of those performances.

England are at a point in the tournament where it could go either way for them. Have this team hit a small bump in the road, or are they now careering off? The players and staff will know that those on the outside are looking for signs that point one way or the other. Not for the first time, Walker will have to take his medicine on this issue and try to make it as easy as possible for Southgate to carry on with his preparations for Tuesday. In terms of England, that is all the player can do.

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