Kyle Walker’s Decision To Join Manchester City From Tottenham Hotspur Has Been Vindicated
In the wake of Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday evening, Pep Guardiola’s side must have known they had taken a giant leap towards the Premier League title.
Few would have envisaged glory being clinched with a helping hand from West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. Yet, amid the cautious sense of celebration among the visitors at the national stadium, Kyle Walker was respectfully restrained as he left the pitch at the temporary home of his former club.
It had been a strange night for the former Spurs favourite. When his name was read out in the starting line-ups, he received warm applause, but his every touch in the first-half was greeted with a chorus of boos.
Perhaps that was emblematic of the mixed feelings surrounding the right-back’s departure last summer. However you look at it, £50million is a very good price and Mauricio Pochettino hoped the void he left would be filled by Kieran Trippier, Serge Aurier, and on occasion, the aptly-named Kyle Walker-Peters.
None of that trio have consistently been able to replicate Walker’s attacking threat, least of all his crossing. Spurs were left with little choice but to sell, though, with the England international having made it clear from the beginning of the 2016/2017 season that his heart no longer lay in north London.
Towards the end of that campaign, his demise under Pochettino was complete. Trippier was selected for the FA Cup semi-final, the north London derby, and the last ever game at White Hart Lane.
There were no guarantees that the grass would be greener at the Etihad, especially when Danilo arrived from Real Madrid to fight for the same position. Less than a year on, Walker has made 30 appearances on his way to becoming a Premier League champion.
The 27-year-old’s eight years at Spurs were an essential part of that journey. In 2009, Harry Redknapp had brought both Walker and Kyle Naughton to the club from Sheffield United. Their careers have gone on very different trajectories since then, but it was touch and go whether that would be the case for the former.
One performance from his early days with the Lilywhites springs to mind and that is the 3-1 defeat away at Sunderland in 2010. Walker gave away a penalty through a handball and was generally hapless. It was difficult to see then how he was going to establish himself.
So, Spurs were not simply a stepping stone on his path. This was the club that nurtured him and it was Pochettino in particular who turned him into the player he is today.
The same could be said of a host of current Spurs players. The danger is that Walker has found the grass was greener elsewhere, and he not only earns £20,000 a week more than Harry Kane, he now has a medal to show for his progress.
Daniel Levy must hope Walker’s success does not set a precedent, especially given the uncertainty surrounding Toby Alderweireld’s future. Just like his old team-mate a year ago, the Belgian finds himself in exile, having missed out on three successive matchday squads.
If the centre-back is allowed to leave this summer, it is not inconceivable that he too will find himself winning silverware elsewhere. That makes lifting the FA Cup all the more important for Tottenham, starting with this weekend’s semi-final against Manchester United.