Kyle Walker-Peters looks to stake his claim for World Cup spot with England

Southampton full-back called up by Southgate for friendly matches against Ivory Coast and Switzerland

Southampton's Kyle Walker-Peters could make his first senior appearance for England in the freindlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

“Walker? Peters? What do you like?” Jose Mourinho was wrestling with the name of the right-back he inherited when he joined Tottenham. It lends itself to confusion. Kyle Walker played in England’s last match. Kyle Walker-Peters could play in their next.

Former Tottenham teammates play in the same position and are near-namesakes but the senior figure has 65 caps. Walker-Peters got his first England call-up when Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold withdrew from the squad to face Ivory Coast and Switzerland.

It should prompt a sense of regret at Tottenham. Over the last couple of years, none of the now departed Serge Aurier, Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal has cemented a position on the right of their defence.

The boyhood Spurs fan Walker-Peters, who joined them at 10, made 24 appearances for them. Just one came under Mourinho before he was loaned to Southampton, then bought in a part-exchange deal with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Walker-Peters has instead realised his potential on the south coast. Spurs, who signed Doherty in 2020 and Royal in 2021, attempted to bring in Adama Traore in 2022 to play right wing-back. Their search continues.

If Walker-Peters’ selection now raises the possibility that he and Walker could emulate the actual namesakes Gary Stevens and Gary Stevens, the Tottenham and Everton full-backs who both made the 1986 World Cup squad, other comparisons are loftier still.

Ralph Hasenhuttl likened a beneficiary of his coaching prowess to arguably the best full-back of recent years. “He reminds me a little bit of Philipp Lahm, because he is so good on the ball, he always has good decisions,” he said last month. “He can run and makes nearly any mistakes.”

If the Southampton manager arrowed in on Walker-Peters’ most obvious attribute, in his pace, his versatility is an indication he has the footballing brain and broader skill set to adapt.

Hasenhuttl brought Walker-Peters on to play as one of the attacking midfielders in his 4-2-2-2 formation in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United and said: “Kyle is an unbelievably smart footballer with a super football intelligence. He plays left-back, right-back and now on the (No) 10. In the sessions sometimes he plays No 6 also, so he can play every position.”

Crystal Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell has also been called-up by England for the first time. AFP

Pep Guardiola reinvented Lahm as a holding midfielder. Now Walker-Peters’ ability to play in multiple roles may aid his international ambitions. The paradox is that he is now the only specialist right-back in Gareth Southgate’s squad.

It is arguably the area where England are most blessed but Alexander-Arnold, James and Kieran Trippier, another who used to block his path to the Tottenham team, are injured, and Walker omitted, but with the promise of a summer recall.

Normally, England have less depth on the left. Minus Ben Chilwell, they have given a first call-up to Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell. For some of this season, Walker-Peters has been his Southampton counterpart, albeit not first choice in his preferred position.

Tino Livramento, who is five years his junior, is the revelation who could soon be the next Saints full-back to get the call from Southgate. Walker-Peters has instead operated on the left. Southgate’s use of Trippier there against Croatia shows he can deploy right-footers on the opposite flank.

Walker-Peters’ education came in part from the two right-backs who started the Euro 2020 final. Watching Walker and Trippier at Tottenham, he said, prompted him to work on his crossing. But, if he feels part of a strange name game, the bigger role model is not the obvious reference point. He said in December: “In terms of influencing me and helping me improve, Kieran Trippier had a massive impact.” Forget Kyle Walker-Peters, perhaps it makes him Kieran Trippier-Peters.

Kyle Walker-Peters said Kieran Trippier, left, has been a positive influence on his career. Reuters
Updated: March 22, 2022, 1:16 PM