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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear

How the ex-QPR player, whose impact carried Man City to the Treble, crowned it all in Istanbul

A report from the Ataturk Stadium

Well of course it's stretching it to say QPR had a hand in winning this year's Champions League.

They do not have a claim to mirror West Ham's boast about winning the 66 World Cup - when the Hammers had their famous trio of Moore, Hurst and Peters doing their stuff at Wembley - but the fans are entitled to daydream a little and take a bit of reflected glory.

They have had so little to feel proud about, of late, so let's cut them some slack.

Then again, it may be hard for most of them to recall how they felt about Kyle Walker - a kid who pitched up on loan in the 2010/11 season looking to make an unanswerable case for being a regular with parent club Tottenham.

But it clearly worked. The defender may have only made 20 appearances for the Hoops, but they were laced with class.

Interviewing the then 20-year-old after a game at Crystal Palace, it was already possible to discern the forceful character that would one day play among the very best on the grandest of stages.

He seemed confident. Focused. Determined to get on. A future England international in the making.

Rangers at the time were being led by Neil Warnock to promotion from the Championship in 2011, and Walker is just a footnote in that triumphant team of Adel Taarabt. He was gone by January. But he played his part in that march to the title before heading off for another loan spell, this time at Aston Villa.

Was he as strong and as quick as this when at Loftus Road? It is hard to recall. But you can remember the feeling that he was a monstrous obstacle for wingers to overcome.

Rangers had a future champion in their midst, but his success is another dagger through the heart for Spurs. Another one who got away. Another fine player who left to achieve silverware. Around 50 players have done that since Tottenham last won a trophy in 2008.

Walker has been sensational in Manchester City's Treble winning squad and has elevated his game to an incredibly consistent level under the supreme guiding hand of Pep Guardiola.

A few months ago, the City boss almost questioned whether Walker could still cut it as first-choice right back because he was unable to drift into the midfield positions when in possession in the way John Stones does. Rather than shrink, he knuckled down and seemed to become even faster. His recovery in back-tracking is frightening.

And his professionalism has been second to none. To the extent that he had to hide the obvious feelings of crushing disappointment when he was not named in the starting XI for Saturday night's date with destiny in Istanbul against Inter at the remote outpost that is the Ataturk Stadium.

Missing out on a place in the team, the 33-year-old is said to have gathered team-mates to tell them: "It's down to you. My dream is in your hands."

He has been such a mainstay in the run-in and played 89 minutes of last week’s FA Cup final win over Manchester United at Wembley.

He was on for nearly the entire time as City thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League semi-final. It must have been a bitter pill. He insisted that a bad back was not going to stand in his way of appearing in the match of a lifetime. But Pep had other ideas about who should start the game

Yet Walker remained a clear, cheer-leading presence and eventually came on after 82 minutes in Turkey to help see out the 1-0 victory, which came courtesy of Rodri's cool 68th minute strike.

He was soon winning important headers and using that searing pace to stymie Inter Milan's attempts to level, although it was a close-run thing, with the crossbar and an Ederson save from Romelu Lukaku's close-range header saving the day.

And then he became the big kid in the sweet shop at the final whistle - crashing onto the turf in a moment of elation, hugging every team-mate, racing alone down a touchline to share the acclaim of fans, sumo-wrestling a member of staff, spraying anyone close at hand from a water bottle.

Soaking up every single moment in what will have felt like the absolute peak of his fine career at the Etihad.

Spurs fans could only look on with envy. QPR fans with perhaps a faint glow of pride.


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