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Walton: Buzz and Excitement About the Place
Friday, 28th Jan 2022 06:00

Town keeper Christian Walton has spoken of the “buzz and excitement” around Portman Road right now on the back of a run under new boss Kieran McKenna that has harvested four wins from his five games in charge.

The much-improved form – 12 points from a possible 15 – is in contrast to Paul Cook’s last five league games in charge, which saw Town win twice, draw once and lose twice, making it seven points from the 15 on offer and the reinvigorated Blues have closed the gap between them and the play-offs to five points.

Victory on Saturday over Sheffield Wednesday, one of their closest rivals in the race to claim play-off places, would be a huge fillip for McKenna’s men. The Owls currently trail eighth-placed Town by a point but have two games in hand so victory at Hillsborough for Ipswich would increase the gap to four points and could, depending on results elsewhere, take them to within two points of sixth place.

Walton, 26, recently completed a permanent switch after impressing during the first half of the season and loves the fact that the move went through to allow him to spend the next two and a half years on the club payroll.

Asked how big a difference the new manager has made, Walton said: “A massive difference. He came in at a difficult time in the season and we’ve picked up in terms of results, which has been really pleasing.

“That brings positivity and breeds confidence within the team, so there is a really good buzz and plenty of excitement about the place at the moment. We know we have to be focused on the job and be ready for the next challenge, which is Saturday’s game at Sheffield Wednesday.

“When you look at where the two teams are in the league there’s obviously a lot at stake for both. But we are on a good run at the moment and we will have a lot of fans cheering us on up there.

“It’s a big test for us against a big club in this league but they will be feeling the same way about it. We will look to go there and showcase what we can do and put on a good performance.”

Town’s latest success on the road came on Tuesday at AFC Wimbledon, a 2-0 victory sending a huge following away happy from Plough Lane and full of confidence about the weekend fixture at Hillsborough. Walton is keen that travelling supporters know how much he and his colleagues appreciate their vociferous backing.

“It’s massive, absolutely huge,” said Walton. I can’t underestimate what that level of support means to the players. Before I came to Ipswich I had no idea how good the supporters were but I soon found out and they have been brilliant all through this season.

“It was great to send them home happy the other night because we know they pay a lot of money to travel and support us, and in the current financial climate we appreciate it isn’t easy.

“It’s important they know how much we appreciate their backing and I can assure them we’ll be doing our utmost on Saturday to give them the win we all want.”

Town have saved some of their best this season for away games, the 4-0 success at Portsmouth and 4-1 win at Wycombe Wanderers clearly the best examples. But a very encouraging display at Sunderland sadly went unrewarded, although interim manager John McGreal did lead the team to a 1-1 draw at Wigan as they came from behind to earn what could still prove to be a precious point.

Walton said: “We have beaten Wycombe twice this season, we won 4-0 at Portsmouth and on the road generally we have had some good performances, like the 4-0 win at Gillingham recently.

“We want to put on that type of performance again on Saturday at Hillsborough but it’s not going to be a case of just turning up and having a stroll in the park.

“It’s going to be a very tough game, we know that, but we are going there in a positive frame of mind after winning four of our last five league games to get closer to the play-offs.

“To get nothing at Sunderland was a disappointment but, again, our performance was good and it was just a case of failing to get the first goal on the back of our superiority.”

Town will again be without the services of skipper Sam Morsy while he serves the second of a four-game ban imposed retrospectively following a clash with Accrington Stanley scorer Ethan Hamilton at Portman Road in a 2-1 home victory last Saturday.

“Sam is a big player for us,” Walton continued. “He’s the captain and he leads the way out on the pitch.

“It’s unfortunate that he’s been banned but the lads who came into the team the other night at Wimbledon, the likes of Tom Carroll and Tyreeq Bakinson, did a great job and we’ve got a lot of other midfield players, Rekeem Harper for example, who can come in.

“Of course we’ll miss Sam because he is such a big player for us but it will give other players an opportunity to show what they can do and to stake a claim for a starting place in the team.”

Meanwhile, Walton is enjoying the fact that he is once again working alongside Rene Gilmartin, the club’s goalkeeping coach and the man who wore the number one shirt for Plymouth Argyle when the pair were together at Home Park.

Walton joined the Pilgrims’ academy when he was only 10 and went on to become a scholar when he left school almost a decade ago.

“I know Rene really well,” said Walton. “I was an academy scholar at Plymouth and he came into the club as the first team goalie. I actually cleaned his boots – I was designated that role – and I left six months later to join Brighton.

“We kept in touch and since then I’ve seen him on the circuit a number of times. Obviously, when he came here it was a familiar face and he played a big, big part in me deciding to sign here permanently because I was looking forward to working with him again.

“Back at Plymouth he gave me a nice Christmas tip and we were actually having a laugh and talking about it the other day. I cleaned the boots of several players back then and it was a tradition in football at the time that the youngsters received a tip at Christmas. I’m pleased to report Rene was very generous!”

Photo: Matchday Images

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Saxonblue74 added 07:07 - Jan 28
Walton signing for us was a huge boost, the calibre of players we're signing really has improved considerably. Having a keeper of his calibre must be a confidence boost for the defence, it certainly seems to be with much improved performances of late. If we can win on Saturday it'll be the biggest 3 points we've gained for a very, very long time. With Gillingham, Donny, Cheltenham, Burton, Crewe to follow we could (should) be in a very good position by mid March.

Saxonblue74 added 07:08 - Jan 28
......Morecombe, Crewe come later!

Fat_Boy_Tim added 08:11 - Jan 28
" I can’t underestimate [sic] what that level of support means to the players."

Sure he meant something like 'overstate'! :)

dirtydingusmagee added 10:46 - Jan 28
EVERYTHING, has picked up at the club now imo. Totally different atmosphere. Long may it last ,well done all concerned. COYB

Monkey_Blue added 11:04 - Jan 28
Cook completely wasted the wave of optimism he was given to surf. Given the improvement pretty much immediately Mck came in you can see he either didn’t have answers or was making excuses, possibly both, in his word spaghetti interviews. I don’t like to use the word faith as it suggests belief without evidence, so I’ll say I’m confident and prepared even say optimistic, perhaps as much as when we won the first 5 games under MM. It’s not just this season, if we can keep hold of the manager long term he’ll help bring the club into the 21st century.

SussexTractor added 11:13 - Jan 28
Christian Walton is an excellent keeper who can in the future play at the highest level. My Brighton supporting friends just thought he was unlucky not to be to retained by the club.

IvorFeeling added 11:43 - Jan 28
Heard separately from 3 ex players, one very recent that squad is totally behind Kieran and have massive respect for him based on what he has brought to the club already. Totally different from PC, the players understand the ethos of his playing style and the high level of professionalism he demands from the squad and the coaching staff.

Feel that we have had our darkest hour and dawn is starting to break.

shakytown added 23:48 - Jan 28
Monkey blue. Cooks problem was he was just a stubborn fool who could not see what was obvious. The players could not and did not want to play his system. add to that how obvious it was as to who the brains of his previous success was and he was always going to fail.

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