Monday 23 April 2018

Hard work and luck the recipe for Walters

Jon Walters is determined to make the most of his second chance as he contemplates a first senior cap for the Republic of Ireland.

The Birkenhead-born 27-year-old Stoke striker could make his senior debut in Wednesday night's friendly against Norway with injuries taking their toll on Giovanni Trapattoni's squad.

However, it is a measure of the extent to which he has rebuilt his career that Walters was named in the initial party of 27 even before Robbie Keane and Caleb Folan succumbed to injury.

Walters said: "I count myself lucky. There are not many lads who drop down the leagues and move back up.

"With all the hard work that goes into doing that, you do need luck as well, so I do count myself lucky.

"But I don't get too ahead of myself and I don't get big-headed or anything like that.

"I work my socks off and do everything on and off the pitch right now."

That is a lesson Walters took some time to learn.

He failed to emerge from the ranks at either first club Blackburn or Bolton, who he joined as a 17-year-old, as by his own admission, he enjoyed life too much off the pitch to produce his best on it, and loan spells at Hull, Crewe and Barnsley eventually led to a permanent £50,000 (€59,000) move to Hull in 2004.

Even then, he struggled to establish himself, although away from football, he was having to contend with a difficult time for his family with his first daughter Scarlett spending much of her early life in hospital.

He was again loaned out to Scunthorpe, Wrexham and Chester, and it was while playing his football with the latter in League Two that he got his break.

Chester took Ipswich to an FA Cup third-round replay, eventually losing 1-0 at Portman Road, but Walters did enough over the two games to persuade then Town boss Jim Magilton to make his move.

He made almost 250 appearances for the Suffolk club before falling out with Magilton's replacement and his compatriot Roy Keane in spectacular style.

Keane, who had handed Walters the captain's armband, withdrew it after he missed a game because of a virus, and the former Manchester United and Republic skipper's response when he was informed of the player's willingness to talk to Stoke was scathing.

However, while both men had their say at the time, Walters insists he learnt a lot from the Town boss.

He said: "I said what I had to say when I left, and people made a little bit more of what actually happened.

"For all the fall-out at the end, I learnt a lot of good things from him as well and positive things, as I have from every manager I have played under.

"You take little bits from each one. When I was at Ipswich, he made me captain and I would like to think as well he helped improve my game when I was there."

Walters has improved his game to such an extent that he stands on the verge of international recognition, a source of intense pride for the family of his late mother Helen Brady.

He said: "It would mean a hell of a lot to me and my family.

"Since the squad was announced, I have been inundated with texts and phone calls, and moving ones from my mum's brothers and sisters and my cousins.

"It's meant a hell of a lot to a lot of people."

Walters, who made just one appearance for Ireland's Under-21s amid talk of a difference of opinions with then coach Don Givens, is in little doubt either about what the serious business of qualification for Euro 2012 would mean to the whole country, and he has his mum to thank for that too.

He said: "Every chance my mum got to come back, every single holiday we had, Easter, Christmas, we were back here for the whole of them.

"We spent all our holidays here, so when I go back to the tournaments we qualified for, we were here for it, so I saw what it means for everyone here."

Trapattoni was today awaiting news of scans on Sean St Ledger and Paul Green, who both have knee injuries, while the medics were also looking at the broken bone in Kevin Doyle's hand.

But keeper Keiren Westwood has joined a long list of players to have been withdrawn, in his case because of illness - Joe Murphy has been drafted in in his place - while Darron Gibson has been excused because his daughter is in hospital.

However, Keane, Kevin Kilbane, Ciaran Clark, Richard Dunne, Paul McShane and Folan are all out.

Press Association

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