FABIAN DELPH has reflected on “the most amazing week of my life” after attending the birth of his child and becoming a World Cup semi-finalist in the space of a few days.
The Manchester City midfielder missed the drama of England’s penalty shootout win over Colombia after flying home to witness the birth of his third daughter, but was back in time to feature as a substitute in Saturday’s quarter-final victory over Sweden.
It is hard to imagine the emotional journey the 28-year-old former Leeds midfielder has been on since landing in Russia, juggling personal joy and professional pride.
And Delph himself admits he is only just coming to terms with what he has experienced.
“It’s been stressful but it’s also been the most amazing week of my life,” he said. “Nobody wants to miss the birth of their child, so to see that and then to get back and be involved in such a fantastic game and go through to the semi-finals is unbelievable.
“It’s only hit me now. It’s been crazy. Over the last five or six weeks I thought I was fine but I hadn’t realised. Now, having had the baby, I’ve really felt a massive weight off my shoulders.”
My wife has been great, she’s an amazing woman and she even wanted me to stay out here. She wanted me to be involved, she didn’t want me to come back. But for me, as a family man, it’s so important to be around when those special occasions happen.Fabian Delph
Delph was far from certain to be part of England’s World Cup adventure – he had yet to play a minute under Gareth Southgate when he was named in the final 23 – but always intended to be present for his daughter’s arrival.
Wife Natalie – described colourfully as “a machine” by her husband on Saturday night – was happy to go it alone but neither Delph nor Southgate entertained the idea.
“My wife has been great, she’s an amazing woman and she even wanted me to stay out here,” he said. “She wanted me to be involved, she didn’t want me to come back. But for me, as a family man, it’s so important to be around when those special occasions happen.
“I take my hat off to the gaffer, he’s been superb, he’s allowed me to get back after the Belgium game.
“I knew the team was more than capable of winning in the last 16, I was really confident the boys would do the job and not miss me too much. It’s worked out perfectly.”
Delph’s hasty return makes him unique in the England camp, as the only person who has tasted the growing expectation on home turf first hand.
“I didn’t realise what it was like until I went back, we’ve got our own bubble and we don’t see outside it,” he said.
“But the support back home is amazing. The lads will only realise once this is all over.”
Meanwhile, Dele Alli has just become England’s youngest World Cup goalscorer since Michael Owen but the Tottenham man admits his performance against Sweden left plenty of room for improvement.
Alli, who turned 22 in April, said: “Personally, I don’t think I played as well as I should have.
“In the first half I wasn’t as sharp or as good on the ball as I should have been, but you have those games and thankfully the team played so well.”