Men's Team

Walker and Phillips reveal fitness race for World Cup

Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips have revealed their fears of missing the World Cup and thanked City’s medical staff for helping them secure a place in the England squad for Qatar.

Both players faced a race against time for the tournament and our latest documentary 'Rehab to the World Cup | Our Three Lions' charts their behind-the-scenes injury battle.

Phillips faced an agonising decision whether to have a shoulder operation so close to the start of the tournament and also knowing it was going to keep him out of City’s first-team action following his move to City in the summer.

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The midfielder aggravated a shoulder injury in a friendly with Barcelona in August and then suffered a recurrence in a training session.

But after discussions with City boss Pep Guardiola, medical staff and his family, he decided to have surgery which meant a battle to be in contention for Gareth Southgate’s squad.

"Two weeks before the European Championships [in 2021], I dislocated my shoulder for the first time," he says. "I rehabbed through it and played the Euros.

"The shoulder wasn’t at its strongest so every time I went in for a contact it was close to popping out and eventually it popped out in a friendly against Barcelona.

"Obviously it was an uncomfortable situation for me. It was very annoying for one, these little niggles keep coming back and I was looking forward to playing more minutes but things like this happen in football – you get these niggles and they push you back a couple of weeks.  

"I rang my mum after that and she said to just get it done. She said 'How long is it to the World Cup?' I said it was eight weeks and she said 'how long will it take you to recover?' and I gave her the worst case scenario which was 12."

But Phillips worked tirelessly to get himself as fit as possible and hopes were boosted when Guardiola named him in the squad for the Carabao Cup with Chelsea on 9 November.

City won 2-0 to progress to the Round of 16 and the City midfielder was able to prove his fitness as a 50th minute substitute.

"It was a good feeling when I came on," he says. "We were winning 1-0 and as soon as I came on it was 2-0 – although I’m not saying it was all me because it wasn’t!

"But it was a big decision [by Guardiola] to make in a cup game that could go either way. But I’m very grateful for that decision, for him to include me in the squad and to play for 40 minutes."

Phillips was named in the England squad the following day as was Walker who was also working incredibly hard to recover from a groin operation.

The defender suffered the injury in the first half of the 6-3 victory over Manchester United on 2 October and worked with medical staff to make the Three Lions squad.

"It was a small action, I was trying to shield the ball out for a throw-in and I just heard a pop in my stomach and my groin," he says.

"The main concern after that was if they do operate, how long is it going to take and when am I going to be back? The amount of support I got, I’m so thankful for, it gave me the strength to go and fight for what I’ve done and achieve.

"In the back of your mind, you’re always thinking am I going to make this. Is this going to be possible? The first two weeks I couldn’t walk and I was thinking I’ve got no chance here.

"But if you start to doubt yourself, there are already so many people out there that are already going to doubt you. If you start doubting yourself, you put yourself in a negative place. So I always tried to keep positive."

City and England team-mate John Stones also suffered an injury setback earlier this season. Although he was back playing in plenty of time to not be a doubt for the squad, he too is grateful for the support of the medical experts.

"I never take it for granted, I definitely don’t, especially after being out of the team for so long," he says in the documentary.

"I’ve always given everything whatever team I’ve been at and I’ll continue doing that until I’ve finished.

"But physios and medical staff is not just a team that massage you, sort your back at, treat injured players, sore spots, whatever it is. In their every day, they have a smile on their faces, a positive vibe and energy.

"They’re with us every day and we bring our problems to them, they don’t bring theirs to us. They sit and listen to you moan, groan, laugh, shout, whatever it is. Putting the job aside, I want to thank them on a personal note."

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