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Jon Walters – The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Article by e-Stoke Correspondent Alastair Turner

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Jon Walters began his career at Blackburn with 2 years as a Youth player and a year on a Professional contract and in 2001 he was the “Star in the team” that reached the FA Youth Final, and was looking at First Team football the following season. However after “breaching club discipline”, rumoured to be stealing players items from the dressing room, Jon had found the end of the road at Ewood Park.

Bolton came in with an offer of £50,000, after Walters had trials at other clubs including Middleborough. Six Foot Walters signed for Bolton and would make his professional debut as an 85th minute substitute against Charlton. Unfortunately this appearance was only followed by 3 more for the whites and after loan spells at Hull, Crewe and Barnsley he signed permanently for the Tigers in 2004 for a figure rumoured to be £50,000, again.

After nearly 40 appearances for Hull and 3 goals over 2 seasons Walters joined money troubled Wrexham on a free transfer. This was closer to Walters home city of Liverpool and it was thought this would be good for the young striker. Walters provided an OK return with 5 goals in the 2005/6 season which would then see him get yet another transfer, after failing to agree a new contract. This time to local rivals Chester City.

Walters had started to show glimpses of his talent at Wrexham but at Chester he showed real potential scoring 9 goals in 26 games. This was enough to attract interest from Championship clubs including Ipswich, Wolves and Scunthorpe. He eventually joined Ipswich for £100,000 rising to almost £200,000 with add-ons. This move wasn’t Ipswich fans first choice, including one fan stating “It probably beats Nicky Forster going to Hull as "Worst Championship Transfer of the season", oh how he was wrong.

Young Jon, 23, was to play for Ipswich for nearly 150 times scoring 36 goals in 3 seasons. During that time he played the number 10 role and combined with Danny Haynes to form a formidable partnership. Although the stats for a striker don’t seem too great, Walters seemed to be at the heart of things in most games along with bags of passion and a never say die attitude this would make him a favourite with the fans. This attitude didn’t help him when he had an argument with then manager Roy Keane after pulling himself from a game at Exeter stating he had a virus. Keane didn’t quite believe Jon’s reasons as Walters was said to want a move away after Premier League Stoke having showed persistent interest. Walters had already turned down an approach from Wigan a year earlier to sign a new deal at Portman Road.

After a prolonged summer chase a £2.75m bid was accepted from Stoke Jon joined on a 4 year deal to the delight of Tony Pulis in 2010. Pulis wanted to add goals to his side and Walters was his answer to that. Walters scored his first Potters goal in a 2-1 cup win against Shrewsbury in front of the Britannia crowd. He then went on to score his first Premier League goal, the winner against his first club Blackburn in October 2010.

During his time at Stoke City Walters has shown glimpses of brilliance, such as his 2 goals against former club Bolton in the FA Cup Semi Final, finishing top goal scorer that season with 12 goals and goal of the season, his 1st goal in the FA Cup Semi Final. He enjoyed a good spell in the Europa League scoring his first European goal against Split in the 1-0 win and he also had a love affair with his former club Bolton as he scored 2 in the 2-2 draw on the last day of the season ultimately relegating them to the Championship. Walters also shone against Liverpool running riot bagging 2 superb goals on Boxing Day 2012, possibly his best performance in the red and white stripes.

In 2013 Walters started slowly. Against Chelsea he had his worst game of his career unluckily scoring 2 own goals and when given the opportunity to amend his mistakes missed a penalty in front of the Boothen End. Walters was an ever present under Pulis, and yet again finished top scorer during the 2012/13 netting 11 goals joined by Kenwyne Jones on the same amount.

The 2013/14 season started with a missed penalty in the final minutes at Anfield but Walters was still the same player giving everything and trying to create opportunities for the side. This is a player that has been top goal scorer for 2 consecutive seasons usually playing wide on the right and not the most prolific penalty takers in the league. Yet Walters would still step up time and time again score or miss; he would have easily hit 15 goals in both seasons was it not for penalty saves.

An ever present for Stoke and now a full Ireland international Walters began to be the first name on his counties team sheet as well. Walter set a record of 102 consecutive Premier League appearances for an outfield player which ended when he missed out against Cardiff due to injury in December 2013, a magnificent feat for a player in the thick of it for 90 minutes week in week out. Walters has struggled for goals during the 2013/14 season but is still one of the first names on the team sheet under Mark Hughes.

Walters is the type of player thought of when you imagine Terry Butcher covered in blood and a head band, although an Irish version. He will give you his all and work back and forth for the team. Although this season with Stoke playing a different system, a 3 pronged attack, I don’t know if Jon can fit into that side.

His work rate is fantastic and aerial ability is superb for a guy only 6ft but technically he is slightly lacking. A few years ago he would run at people and drive forward. Although recently he seems to have put the breaks on and seems nervous under pressure, something you wouldn’t imagine when he first arrived from Ipswich. I think Jon has lost that edge, whether it is a lack of confidence under the new manager or he may not be enjoying the new tactics, I don’t know. I don’t think he is the type of player that suits Mark Hughes’ style.

With all that said we must remember this is a guy who played out of position most of his time at Stoke yet still managed to finish top scorer 2 seasons in a row. He is one of the hardest workers on the pitch but I don’t think that should be his job. That should be for Whelan or N’Zonzi to do that. It would be nice to see “Sir Jon Walters”, as many of the Oatcake writers call him, up front, in the number 10 role supporting the likes of Crouch or Guidetti. When he played this role, in the FA Cup Semi Final and against Liverpool on Boxing Day he was fantastic. From the right hand side I don’t think Walters has the opportunity to get up and support and do his job on the right side. I don’t think Stoke should ship him off just yet but I can’t imagine Jon staying passed the summer; unless Hughes switches to a 442 and hands the number 10 slot to Walters. Gone are the days when a forward can survive in the Premier League by working hard for the team, you need to add goals to your game too. In a side that is lacking goals we need to have more creative people in the side to provide opportunities for the front me. You cannot get away with playing people out of position in the Premier League.

Although Tony Pulis might say different, after keeping Stoke in the Premier League for years with Walters in the side, and who am I to question his judgement, he did just take 3 points off Stoke.

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