Kieran Trippier on his ‘difficult’ journey

It was the first night of the England squad’s boot camp at the Royal Marine Commanding Training Centre and, if you wanted to be harsh, you could say right-back pair Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker struggled with the first test.

“We put the tent on the wrong way round to start,” Trippier laughs. “It was getting a bit dark so we didn’t have time to put it back around because it was already up so we thought ‘we may as well sleep in it’. We rolled out our sleeping bags, which were really comfortable. It was a great experience.”

It’s also a great image, the sight of two vaunted Premier League footballers in the woods scratching their heads as they figure out a problem together, not least because these particular two are supposed to be in direct competition with each other.

If one of the objectives of the boot camp was to bring the England squad closer together, though, there was no such necessity for that with Trippier and Walker. They may have both been vying for the starting right-back spot for Tottenham Hotspur this season – and now England – but that has only strengthened their friendship.

“That’s what we’re like,” Trippier says. “We bounce off each other and are good mates. We have been playing with England since under-19s so we have known each other for a long time and we always try and give credit to each other whoever plays. We help each other out.

“It will be no different here. I want to play and he wants to play but if he plays, I’ll help him. If I get picked, I know he will do the same for me.”

If Trippier wasn’t too concerned about turning the tent over, you couldn’t accuse him of any laziness or lack of resolve, because the very discussion shows how he has turned his career right around over the past few years.

This is a 26-year-old former under-21 international who had the reality check of getting let go by Manchester City having come through their youth set-up, and then took the brave decision of going down to the Championship with Burnley.

From there, he took huge strides to eventually sign for Spurs in 2015 and – after a bit of a wait – has overtaken someone as formidable as Walker to become starting right-back and force himself into the full England set-up.

Trippier might earn his first full cap away to Scotland in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier, but says he always had full belief he could get to this kind of level again, despite what he describes as a “difficult” and “long journey”.

“I was at City since I was a young boy. I was there since I was nine so I was devastated to be let go. I have been fighting ever since as I went back to the Championship for a few years but I always knew I could get back to the top.

“I always believed I could get back into the Premier League and always believed I could get back into England… that is what I said before about belief. I believe I can play at this level. I wanted to go to Tottenham. I knew the England boys there. I always believe that I can do my best and I know where I can improve.”

He has worked hard to improve, too, and is clearly a bit of a student. Trippier would try and emulate David Beckham in terms of his crossing, and saw Gary Neville as his “main person to watch as a full-back”. He initially believed he was in some kind of trouble when he was first called in to find out he was called up to the England squad, but that was partly because Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had a bit of mischief on the club’s post-season trip to Hong Kong.

“He had a little bit of banter and he said ‘I know what what you did last night’. I thought I was in trouble even though I didn’t do anything. He scared me and brought in Hugo [Lloris], the captain. I thought ‘did I do something last night?’ Even though I knew I didn’t. He said ‘congratulations, you have been called into England’. I phoned my parents straight away as they have done a lot of hard work to get me where I am.”

Given he was just getting used to the idea of potentially being an England international again, it was all the more of “a shock” for his first call-up to involve hard work of a very different kind with the boot camp.

“When he [Gareth Southgate springing the surprise] first walked into the room we thought ‘what is going on here?’ We were looking forward to it and to see what they had planned for us. We all enjoyed it and it was a good two days.

“We had to get changed into our combat gear and were carrying big ruck sacks. We went to our camp in pairs and had to cook your own food on the metal trays, make your own little fires.

“I had the chilli. There were rations so we had to make sure we got the best desserts – everyone was trying for the mango. It was how they work and we experienced it – it was tough but good.

“It was a good experience and then we had to do running and crawling through rocks, we got thrown under water tunnels. I am not a fan of being under water. They pulled us through the tunnels which was a bit scary as I was trying to reach out and grab him [the marine] and could not find him. That was the scariest. We all tried it and all did it.

“They all did well. Me and Walks were the only ones to get our tent the wrong way round. All the lads chipped in and put the tents up quickly as it was getting dark. We only had a short spell of time to do it.”

They only a short spell of sleeping, too, although that was partly because of other teammates rather than his tent-mate, Walker.

“He doesn’t snore! He’s a quiet sleeper to be fair… It took us ages to get to sleep that night because there were loads of others talking but Walks is a good lad. He’s a good friend. Who was talking? Let’s just say there were a few of them! It quietened down as we knew we would have to get up early.

“We only got a couple of hours sleep because they came back in at half five in the morning and said ‘put your tents down’. We had to get the gear all back in our bags. We then had a four-mile walk as well but the assault courses were good. There were different groups and it was testing.

“It is something different. The manager wanted us to do it and not many managers do that. It brings the team together through the tough times and we all help each other out.”

He and Walker are the proof of that, while Trippier’s career is clear proof of belief and perseverance. Whatever about the tent, he doesn’t feel he has a ceiling. He’s passed so many other tests.

(The Independent)

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