Belgium v England: World Cup '˜high life' gives Fabian Delph taste for more

Fabian Delph says being part of England's World Cup adventure is the highlight of his career '“ and hopes this summer is just the beginning.

England's Fabian Delph (right) and Belgium's Nacer Chadli battle for the ball during their Group G match at Kaliningrad Stadium. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA
England's Fabian Delph (right) and Belgium's Nacer Chadli battle for the ball during their Group G match at Kaliningrad Stadium. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA

Few could have foreseen Gareth Southgate’s men getting to the semi-finals in Russia, just as few would have predicted at the start of the season that the former Leeds United star would be involved.

Yet Delph flourished for title-winning Manchester City as a makeshift left-back and has been one of the leaders of a group now preparing for today’s third-place play-off against Belgium.

The disappointment not to be facing France in the following day’s final is clear, as is the 28-year-old Yorkshireman’s pride at the end of a campaign to remember.

“For me personally it’s been a fantastic season,” said Delph, who briefly returned home for the birth of his third daughter. “I managed to play quite a lot of football and in a position that I’ve never played before, so it was a learning season. A very enjoyable one.

“In terms of my development, I feel still like I have a lot of development to do, a lot of areas that I can work at.

“It’s very important to be playing regular football because if not you lose your distances, your timing – you start to basically get older and fade away, so this season has been a great season for me.

“To get into the World Cup squad has been the highlight of my career. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I think when I get time to go home and sit down and talk to the family, there’ll be a lot of memories that I’ll keep close to my heart.

BE PREPARED: England's Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dele Alli, Fabian Delph, Eric Dier and Harry Kane during Friday's training session at the Spartak Zelenogorsk Stadium. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA

“Hopefully, I can continue to keep playing in the Manchester City team and keep getting in the England squads.”

Delph is set to start against Belgium in St Petersburg when England can become the second-most successful team in the national side’s history should they win. Togetherness will again be key if Belgium are to be defeated, with the kinship within the squad this summer mirroring life at club level.

“I think I’ve mentioned a few times that the feeling I have at Manchester City, the energy, the trust that we have got within our camp, is quite identical to what I’ve felt since I’ve been in this camp,” Delph added.

“The energy is fantastic. There’s a lot of young player and everybody seems to be fearless, going in the same direction, and it’s quite similar.

“It felt like I was leaving club football to join up with club football again, if you like.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s always an honour to play for your country and to do it with a bunch of lads that are such good lads and to go as far as we’ve gone...

“We’ve not quite done it but it’s been a fantastic experience for me personally and I think it’ll stand us in good stead for the future.”