Last week, I had the opportunity to interview former England and Sheffield Wednesday defender Des Walker.
He is a player I idolised as a youth and he made over 300 appearances for the Owls – still being recognised as one of the best centre-backs ever to wear the blue and white Wednesday shirt.
The interview took place thanks to a new Paddy Power store on Bellhouse Road in Sheffield.
As a Sheffield Wednesday legend, how does it feel to be ranked as one of the best centre-backs in the club’s history?
“I had eight great years at Sheffield Wednesday; it’s good to be back in Sheffield today thanks to Paddy Power as I actually live in Nottingham. When you go to a place you never really know how you are going to do, you want to justify the amount of money they paid for me. You want to show the fans you can contribute to Sheffield Wednesday. I want the fans to look back and know I did my job well as they are paying good money.”
It was just under £3 million that Sheffield Wednesday paid for you, which is probably equivalent of £20 million in this day and age. Do you still look out for their scores now?
“Yeah, somewhere around that figure, it’s hard to equate. It was eight great years. Wednesday is a Premier League club with such fantastic fans. Last year I was rooting for them, the Premier League is where they deserve to be. This year they have a strong team and quality players so hopefully they can go from strength to strength.”
Do you have a highlight of your Sheffield Wednesday career; a particular game or moment?
“In my whole career I tend to not have individual highlights, for me my whole career is a highlight. I wanted to do well in every game. My whole eight years at Sheffield Wednesday were a highlight – the first six years were most enjoyable, the last two we were struggling with relegation and obviously that’s not as nice, but at the end of the day I had a great time. I was lucky to play with some great players such as John Sheridan, Chris Waddle and Roland Nilsson. When I look back at my career, it was the players I played with and against, plus the fans, that made my career. They are the highlights.”
What was it like hearing the fans chant songs like ‘You’ll never beat Des Walker’?
“It gives you a boost because the fans are on your side. The best thing was it annoyed the forwards (laughs). I always remember Gary Lineker and Ian Wright saying that they hated that song. It really helped me, I knew it annoyed them. It gave me that little extra edge and confidence. It was nice to have 25-30,000 singing my name.”
Were there any particular players you played against that you considered tougher opposition?
“They were all tough, they were exceptional footballers. You have to apply yourself, the better the player, the better it brought out of me. That’s why I came here, to test myself. I was lucky because the Premier League was littered with great players. Mark Hughes and Ian Rush were always tough cookies. The ones I struggled with was the taller players so Wimbledon wasn’t a very nice place for me to go. The so called better players suited me more, against every player I wanted to come out on top. If you blinked they had got you, so that kept my concentration high.”
What do you think of Sheffield Wednesdays current transfer business this summer?
“It takes time for the players to settle, especially when you have been playing in the Premier League, it hits you like a ton of bricks, and the Championship is completely different. You have more time in the Premier League because there is more respect for one another. Players will take time to settle. I work at Derby now and Sheffield Wednesday were the best team that came to us. Wednesday was a really good outfit and they were organised. It’s no secret that I didn’t want Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs because they went into them in the best form. I didn’t fancy Brighton after they lost on goal difference on the last day either.”
Discussing Sheffield Wednesday currently, what are your expectations this season?
“They will definitely finish in the top six. There are a lot of big teams. I think Newcastle and Villa are in a little bit of disarray because of how they went down. Most teams that go down tend to take two months to recoup. Newcastle will be up there at the end though. Norwich are still in good order and will be up there, but Villa could take more than a year to get it going again. Along with Newcastle, Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Derby, I’m hoping Forest will be up there as well. My idol scenario is Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and Forest to go up – that is a perfect season for me. All three are equipped to be up there, they all have a history and should be up there. There are some huge clubs in the Championship this season. Sheffield Wednesday fans are great and deserve the chance to go to the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. When they played Arsenal in the cup last season, it was a party. Hopefully Sheffield United get promoted too because the city of Sheffield needs that rivalry back.”
If you could choose only one of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Derby County to be promoted this season, who would you pick?
“I live in Nottingham; do you want them to put a brick through my window? (laughs). That rivalry is fierce. Three go up, let’s stick with all three. Seriously, let’s hope the best team goes up. If one of the three deserves to go up it should be them.”
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Des Walker for his time and answering my questions during the interview. Also a special mention goes out to Lee Price (@Lee_Price) and Paddy Power for my invitation to this event.