Walton: Greater Responsibility in Possession Will Make Me a Better Keeper
Friday, 28th Jan 2022 06:00
New manager Kieran McKenna has not only boosted Town’s promotion prospects with an impressive run of results, he has also improved the performance levels of a number of individuals along the way.
Take goalkeeper Christian Walton, for example, who has played a major part in Town winning four of their five games under McKenna, starting all of those matches aside the 1-0 home win against Wycombe.
Walton revealed that McKenna has asked more of him in the few weeks that the former Manchester United first-team coach has been in charge of team affairs, adding: “I’ve got a bigger responsibility in possession and starting the team off from the back. We’re setting up to play out, bring teams on to us and then playing through them.
“That is a big part of what he wants to bring to the team, so I would say that the responsibility for me in possession is a lot bigger than what has been asked of me by previous managers at previous clubs. But it’s going to help me improve and develop as a goalie, which is the important thing.”
Asked if he was comfortable with the change, Walton said: “Yes, it’s a massive part of goalkeeping now. You look at the top level and how the keepers are so good with their feet.
“It’s a part of the job that you need to develop and with the way our manager wants us to play the onus is on me to do that.
“I’m very comfortable with it because it will make me a better keeper and that’s what I am striving to become.
“Developing that side of the game will definitely be important for me in the long term. When we pull it off the team looks really good.
“There’s a real structure to it, which I feel makes my job easier, while it also helps us to get up the pitch.
“I think some managers claim they want to play out but they don’t put in the hours on the training ground and give the information to the players to help them actually do it.
“We’ve all got the information here that we need to do it and we’re fully prepared to do it. It’s obviously going to take time to get it to the top level but I think we’ve had a good start to it and I’m really enjoying it.”
Working with goalkeeping coach Rene Gilmartin has also been a bonus for the ex-Brighton man. The pair were together at Plymouth and Walton added: “On a personal level he’s really good – his attention to detail has been really good since he came in here.
“It’s a good environment to be in when he’s working with individual goalies, making it as positive as he possibly can and it’s good for all three of us.
“It’s really competitive and healthy, so it’s all good and I’m looking forward to working with him during the rest of my time at the club.”
Casting his mind back to his start in the game, Walton admitted he owed his parents a lot because while growing up in Wadebridge, Cornwall, was an enjoyable experience, from a football perspective it was never going to be an ideal location.
He explained: “I started at Plymouth’s academy when I was 10 so it was difficult and the taxi firm of Mum and Dad was certainly kept busy.
“Plymouth was the nearest club to where I lived but it was still an hour and a half away, and we did the three-hour round trip every Tuesday and Thursday night, plus there would be a game on the Saturday or Sunday so we spent a lot of time on the road.
“I was also a Plymouth fan and a season ticket holder so I wanted to go to all the games at Home Park as well, which sometimes meant four trips there and back in a week. My dad was always there to take me and although he loved it I’ll never be able to thank him enough for what he did.
“I think a lot of parents do that for their children but with us living where we did, and it being so isolated, it meant more time in the car than it would have been in other parts of the country. It wasn’t easy travelling as far as we did after I’d been at school so I’ll always be very grateful.”
The distance between Ipswich and the family home in Cornwall also makes it difficult and Walton added: “Where my parents live is a good seven hours from here and I’ve not been back since last summer.
“I always go back in the off-season but it’s not easy to make the journey when I’m playing football and it’s the same for them coming to see me.
“It’s not very accessible, that end of the country, and there isn’t the same number of transport links. When I was at Wigan on loan I could use the Manchester to Newquay flight, which was perfect, but I’m out on a limb here, so I’ll be struggling to get back to Cornwall until the season finishes.”
Asked which goalkeepers had inspired him, Walton said: “When I was a fan at Plymouth the goalkeeper was Romain Larrieu and I absolutely loved him. He was my biggest inspiration as a youngster but then at the top level I always enjoyed watching Edwin van der Sar and I was fortunate enough to see him live a few times.
“He was the best of all the keepers around at the time, in my opinion, and when he went to Manchester United I think he played a massive part in their team and the success they had
“ He was great to watch and so too was Petr Cech at Chelsea. There were a lot of goalies I loved to watch and I probably covered them all really, as I was a big fan of the goalkeepers when I watched games.”
Was there ever a chance of Walton playing in an outfield position? He laughed: “When I first started playing the rule was that the biggest went in goal. That was me and I’ve been there ever since; I’ve never played outfield.”
Finally, Walton was asked about his current form and whether there was more to come from him and he replied: “A lot, I hope, because I want to carry on improving while I’m here at Ipswich.
“I want to do the best I can and with the support we have from the new manager and staff at the club I can see everyone improving.
“It’s a good environment to be in and I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping the team and getting this club back up through the divisions.
“I’ve not played in the Premier League but I want to at some point. Either I do or I don’t but I believe in setting goals. You’ve got to be realistic and the next step is to win on Saturday and go from there, but I want to play at the highest possible level and with Ipswich I believe it is a massive possibility.
“We’re on a good run and it’s good to have a settled backline, whether it’s three or four, and to see the same faces in front of me on match days.
“There can be changes through injuries and stuff like that but I think it helps everyone when there is a settled line-up because it brings with it a bit of stability.
“Everyone knows their roles and the way we’re setting up to play at the moment is easier when you’re in a rhythm of games and you know the people around you at the back.”
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