Despite being man that pushed Ireland over the line in their second play-off game against Bosnia, Jon Walters is a player who splits opinion amongst football fans, but always seems to deliver when needed most.
After signing a new two-and-a-half-year contract at Stoke recently, the Irishman will be hoping that he can further enhance his status at the Britannia Stadium.
It’s been a long road to the top for the forward and we’ve taken a closer look at how the 32-year-old has gone from journeyman to international hero…
Where did it all start?
Walters was born on September 20 in Moreton, Merseyside, to Irish parents. He was spotted originally by Blackburn Rovers after impressing for Shaftesbury at the age of 16. However, Walters spent only one year at Ewood Park after his contract was terminated due to a ‘serious breach of discipline’. But after taking Blackburn’s youth team to the FA Youth Cup final, there was plenty of interest generated.
What happened next?
Walters agreed to join Bolton for £50,000 where he made his first four Premier League appearances. However, a unsuccessful four years saw him go out on loan to Hull City, Crewe Alexandra and Barnsley, where he only managed 19 games. These unsuccessful years saw Walters drop into League Two to play for Welsh side Wrexham, scoring five times in 38 appearances. It was his next career move that brought controversy, as the Irishman moved to bitter rivals Chester City. He enjoyed a better campaign with the Blues, netting nine times in 26 games.
When was his breakthrough?
After one year with Chester, Walters moved on to Ipswich where he started to make a name for himself. By November 2007, he managed his first senior hat-trick in a 6-0 victory over Bristol City. He endured three successful years at Portman Road, in which he earned his first international B team call-up, and won the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards.
These accolades matched with genuine talent brought him to the attention of Stoke City, who signed him for £2.75m in 2010. He has been a success for the Potters, stating that he wants to end his career at the Britannia. Giovanni Trapattoni, who gave him his first senior call-up in November 2010, noted his presence at the Premier League club, saying that he was a hard working player who deserved to be playing for the national team.
Why do Stoke and Ireland fans love him so much?
Walters is a tireless footballer who you can see gives his all for the team on the pitch. He seems to be the man for the big occasion also, scoring important goals against Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League, and sending Ireland through to Euro 2016 with a brace against Bosnia. He’s the type of player who works for his luck, although he doesn’t always receive it, as he scored two own goals and missed a penalty on his 100th Stoke appearance. But with a healthy international record of 10 goals in 38 games, Walters is a man fan’s can guarantee will grind out performances and give everything for his side.