Former Sheffield United favourite Derek Geary remembers Bramall Lane rise of Manchester City's England Euros hero Kyle Walker
Ever since Kyle Walker exploded onto the scene as a teenager, thrust into the rough and tumble of a promotion battle with Sheffield United, Derek Geary has taken a keen interest in the Sheffield-born defender’s career.
It has taken him from the streets of Sharrow to superstardom, and to the brink of immortality with England after being a key member of the squad which lost the European Championship final on Sunday evening.
And it all began as a young man in United’s academy, before Geary took a young Walker under his wing as he looked to make his way in the game. The Manchester City defender revealed recently that he still has a pair of shinpads given to him by Geary as their careers went in different directions. Walker wore them on Sunday as England took Italy all the way at Wembley.
“I was in the team when Kyle was a young lad coming through,” Irishman Geary told The42. “You could see right away that he had a lot of potential, he had a lot going for him, even though he was still very young.
“A lot of senior players can be resentful towards younger players when they’re coming through and trying to challenge them for their position – I experienced it myself as a kid – but the fact that I was looking to be supportive of him was something he seemed to appreciate.
“As a senior player it’s important to treat the younger players the right way. I think Kyle would have been a ballboy at one stage when I was playing at Sheffield United As a young kid, he would have been looking up to guys like me in the first-team. I had been in that position myself and it’s a big thing when you start to make that step-up yourself.
“When I was a kid at Sheffield Wednesday, guys like Des Walker and Andy Hinchcliffe really helped me, which meant a lot to me. I just tried to help Kyle with his game as much as I felt I could. I suppose I took him under my wing in a way that I’d like to have been treated when I was that age.
“It was clear that he was on his way to having a really good career, so offering him whatever advice I had was the right thing to do. Eventually then he was playing in the team ahead of me, which I had no problem with.”
Eventually, persistent knee injuries forced Geary to retire early. He moved into coaching and currently works with United’s U18s.
“The game was changing,” Geary added. “As well as being really good technically, players were becoming more athletic, quicker and stronger. Kyle was in that category and he was coming up behind me like a train. Even a fully fit me didn’t stand a chance.
“When he was playing and I was on the bench, there was never any resentment. I knew that he was a lad who was going to go far. Physically he was unbelievable, his attitude was spot-on and he’s gotten better and better technically over the years.”