Fabian Delph cleared to fly home during World Cup for birth of third child

Jamie Jackson on 24 May 2018

Fabian Delph has been given permission by Gareth Southgate to fly home from the World Cup to be at the birth of his third child, and the England manager will allow Phil Jones to do the same and be with his own pregnant wife should he wish.

Delph’s wife, Natalie, is due on 30 June, two days after England play Belgium in their final group game in Kaliningrad. The Manchester City player has discussed the situation with Southgate.

“Gareth’s been absolutely fantastic,” Delph said. “There’s not just me, there’s Phil Jones as well – I think his wife’s expecting. There’s nothing more important than family to me – it always comes first and always will. If I do have the opportunity to get back [home], I will. But if not, she’s tough, she’ll deal with it. We’re not 100% certain [what will occur] – but because the game is on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast.”

Delph was called by his wife about another matter after he forgot to bring an essential item to England’s St George’s Park training base. “I met her when I was at Leeds – she’s from Yorkshire so there’s only Yorkshire Tea bags in my house but I forgot them. She rang me saying: ‘You’ve forgot your tea bags.’ One hundred per cent, I will take them to Russia.”

Delph’s selection by Southgate was a fitting bookend to a personal season of triumph after Pep Guardiola nearly sold him to Stoke City last summer, and he finished with a Premier League winners’ medal. The 28-year-old made 29 appearances in all competitions, becoming Guardiola’s first-choice left-back after Benjamin Mendy’s serious knee injury in September.

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“It was tricky for me at the start, because I wasn’t sure where I was going to be club-wise, and there was a lot of talk about me moving on and whether I was going to stay,” said Delph, who is listed by Southgate as a midfielder but emphasised that he is happy to play anywhere.

“But I managed to stay at Man City. It was unfortunate for Benjamin Mendy, because there were big hopes surrounding him and with him playing in the team it would have been a different style of football, an exciting style.

“But I managed to sneak in there at left-back and managed to get quite a few games. I played there as a young kid but not many times. I played there probably one or two times under Gérard Houllier at Aston Villa, but not really.”

Delph joined City from Villa in July 2015 after performing two U-turns, first reversing a decision to leave, then changing his mind again.

“I was fully committed to staying at Aston Villa,” he said. “The reason I didn’t was because the signings we were going to bring in to strengthen to guarantee we wouldn’t be fighting relegation – that never happened. The opportunity to go and win the Premier League, to compete in or win a Champions League, was too big an opportunity to miss.

“It obviously didn’t go down well because I came out and said I was staying. I spoke to the club and the club came out with a statement and it’s okayed [but] a lot of stuff got mixed up. I’ve never had the opportunity to come out and speak about it. The situation basically was, for three or four years, I was fighting week in, week out to help the team not get relegated and it takes its toll on you.

“For me it was the fact that staff would lose their jobs – I had a great relationship with them, the kitchen staff, kit men, cleaners, absolutely everyone. I loved the club so for me to then go was hard.”

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