Nathaniel Clyne admits he wanted to be a striker, but the Liverpool defender now feels at home in the England defence and is intent on staying there.
New signing Clyne made a positive start to his career at Anfield since joining from Southampton for £12million in the summer, and the 24-year-old made his sixth senior appearance for England in their 6-0 win in San Marino that seals the Three Lions’ qualification for Euro 2016.
Clyne admits his responsibilities have changed considerably since he switched to being a defender while on the books at Spurs, but some of the attacking instincts he had as a youngster have benefitted the right-back while he established himself as one of the Premier League’s best full-backs.
The England defender told the Guardian: “Ideally I would have been a striker. I liked playing up front and scoring goals.”
Tottenham fought off rival interest from Arsenal to sign the Stockwell-born defender, who came to the attention of scouts after scoring four goals in one junior game.
“That was a long time ago,” he said. “I was only seven or eight at the time and I can’t even remember who the opposition were, but it was Spurs who I ended up joining. I was with them from age 10 to 13, and that’s when I began playing full-back.
“Even when I was playing up front I always had a lot of energy and a hunger to run after people and win the ball back. I was really good at it, so eventually they decided I was better off as a defender.
“Tottenham was great, it was just the travel that was the problem. It wasn’t ideal from South London because mum didn’t drive and we had to take the train. I had to find somewhere closer, and Crystal Palace was just around the corner.”
Clyne came through the ranks at Palace, making 122 appearances and winning the club’s Player of the Year award before moving to Southampton in 2012. Three years on, the £12million man is now first choice for one of the country’s biggest clubs and Roy Hodgson’s England. But Clyne knows the hard work is only just starting.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he says. “I have got where I always wanted to be, but now I have to work hard to keep improving and stay here.
“It is going to be difficult because there are a lot of people who can play right-back, but I have to try to make the position my own and competition is a good thing.
“I think the position of full-back has changed a lot in the last few years. We are almost regarded as wingers now: you are expected to get forward and help in attack but also be good in defence.
“It is a lot of running up and down but I happen to like that. I’m a fit young lad and I enjoy getting forward as well as defending. You get the best of both worlds in this position, as well as special advice from Gary Neville.”