It’s not yet January, but the Winter transfer business is underway – this time enforced as we bring in an emergency loan goalkeeper in Sam Walker from Reading, following the positive COVID tests from both Chris Maxwell and Matty Virtue.
The club has intentionally left a space open in the squad for an emergency goalkeeper should this issue arise throughout the season, rather than making a permanent signing who would ultimately come in to be a backup to captain Chris Maxwell. That makes a lot of sense, given the limit of 22 players and salary cap the club is under this year – it’s also something other sides in the division, including Doncaster, have done so we aren’t alone with this tactic.
6ft 6in Walker goes straight into our line up against Rochdale at home on Boxing Day, so who is he and what attributes will he offer between the sticks?
The 29-year-old started his career with Millwall but was signed by Chelsea in March 2007, for £500k at the age of just 15. He made his way through the youth teams at Stamford Bridge, winning the 2009-10 FA Youth Cup and playing regularly for the reserves, but failing to make a first-team appearance for the Blues.
Loan spells followed over the next four seasons, making a combined 59 appearances in leagues One and Two for Barnet, Northampton Town, Yeovil Town and Bristol Rovers. He then went on to make more than 200 appearances for Colchester United, initially joining on two separate loan spells before his move was made permanent in January 2014.
Walker turned down a new contract with the U’s in 2018, opting to move up to the Championship with Reading. He made 7 league appearances in his first season, as well as two League Cup games, and played in all five of Reading’s FA Cup games last season – including the two legs against us where he kept a clean sheet alongside Teddy Howe at Bloomfield Road.
What’s he like?
Walker played at Bloomers last year and we’ve dug out some of his highlights from that game. Such was the way of our football at the time, he was peppered with plenty of crosses and aerial bombardment – at 6ft 6in, he was well up to the task as you can see from these clips below.
Walker is on an emergency one-week loan and is likely just a stop-gap for Chris Maxwell who must now isolate due to COVID-19. This may be extended through January depending on how Maxwell’s recovery goes. His contract is up in the summer, so if he does impress then there’s potential for us to try and sign him on a permanent deal – either this window for cheap, or in the summer upon his contract expiry. But realistically, it’s likely that he’d be backup to Maxwell and therefore unlikely to extend further. He’s also born in Gravesend, plying his trade down south for his whole career down there up until now, so it’s a new one for him to come so far North at Christmas time where he’ll likely be leaving his family.
It’s good that the club has managed to act quickly to bring in an experienced keeper at this level who will be wanting to impress and get some first team action under his belt. Given he already knows Teddy Howe, he won’t be a complete stranger to the whole squad and should hopefully settle in quickly into the side. Let’s get behind the new stopper and fingers crossed for two clean sheets this week!
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