A Luton Town fan’s view of Christian Walton

Wigan Athletic have announced the signing of Christian Walton from Brighton and Hove Albion on a season-long loan. The 6 ft 5 in tall goalkeeper is 21 years old and has represented England at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels. He has recently signed a four year contract with the south coast club.

On signing Walton, Latics manager Paul Cook stated: “Following the departure of Matt Gilks it was clear we needed reinforcements in this area and Christian is one that we were keen to target. He had good experience in League Two and League One last season and has the potential to develop into a top goalkeeper.”

Christian Walton was born in Wadebridge, Cornwall, and came through the Plymouth Argyle youth system. He joined Albion as a 17 year old, going on to sign a professional contract in the summer of 2013. He made his senior debut in late October 2014 in a League Cup tie against Tottenham. Walton made his league debut against Uwe Rosler’s Latics less than a week later, to be followed by a start against Blackburn Rovers in the match following. He had to wait until the last game of the season to reappear when Albion played at Middlesbrough.

In summer 2015 Walton joined Bury on a season-long  loan, playing against Latics once more, this time at the DW Stadium in a League Cup match. However, the loan was cut short in early September, due to a groin injury. He had made 6 appearances. However, in November he was sent back to Plymouth on a short-term loan, making four appearances over a month.

Last season Walton joined Luton Town on a season-long loan, only to be recalled by Albion in January 2017. He had made 33 appearances for the Bedfordshire club, conceding the least number of goals in League 2 up to that point. In April he joined Southend United on a month-long loan, making 7 appearances.

In order to learn more about Christian we reached out on Twitter to fans of Luton Town, where he has played the majority of his first team football. Thanks to Danny B-D @dannybd85 and Andrew Kingston @treblethree for their responses to our questions that appear below.

Let’s start with Danny’s fan view:

What are his strengths and weaknesses as a keeper?

I’d say his strengths are his shot stopping, and one on one situations!

Weakness probably his distribution, his kicking was sometimes wayward from goal kicks if he went long, short was fine as we often played from the back last year! 

Sometimes he would come for a cross and either miss completely or get beaten to it in the air by an opposing player!

However I would say it was rare and I can only recall Stevenage and Portsmouth away where it cost us the game

How does he relate to the fans? Is he a team player? Does he show commitment?

He pretty much became a fans favourite very quickly! some saves he made early on went down very well with our supporters and a lot of us were gutted when Brighton activated the recall clause in his loan deal!

He was very much a team player and showed a good level of commitment whenever he played for Luton, and everybody was in agreement that he had improved massively over the 6 months or so he was with us.

We can expect possession football to return to Wigan under Paul Cook. How effective would he be building up moves from the back?

What you would need to remember is he is a young keeper and will make mistakes here and there, as mentioned above, his long kicking needs working on, and he came for crosses and didn’t always successfully catch the ball, but you will tell he’ll be a valuable asset to you.

As I said above he was used to playing out the back too, in fact we did vary the style a bit and as the season went on he certainly improved his overall game!

What kind of potential does he have? Would you have him back at Luton?

Well put simply, Brighton have just given him a 4 year contract so they clearly see a futurefor him, whether that be championship or premier league remains to be seen, I think premier league is achievable if he progresses as fast as he did with us last season.

I feel with regular game time at League One level will serve to improve him further and if he keeps moving up the divisions season by season I don’t see why he won’t be a regular in a premier league side, but there’s a longish way to go for him yet!

I would love to see him back at Luton one day, I am, like many town fans are, convinced we would’ve gone up automatically last season had he remained all season! 

No disrespect to Macey and Moore who were bought in to replace him but Walton was just a cut above both of them! 

You’ve got yourself a good young goalkeeper with bags of potential and I hope he continues to impress

Hope that helps, and good luck for the season!

 

Andrew’s fan view:

 What are his strengths and weaknesses as a keeper?

I must admit when we first got him I was worried about putting a young keeper in as our no.1 but he really surprised me at how mature his performances were, he is a good shot stopper and doesn’t let mistakes get to him, not that he made a lot of them. If I was going to be harsh I would say he could use his height better but that’s just looking for a weaknesses.

 How does he relate to the fans? Is he a team player? Does he show commitment?

He got on really well with the fans at Luton who took to him very early on, definitely a team player and was so committed to the club he even came back to watch our games after he left.

We can expect possession football to return to Wigan under Paul Cook. How effective would he be building up moves from the back ?

Nathan Jones likes to pass from the back which is one of the reasons he got Walton in at Luton, you shouldn’t have any problems with his distribution and he doesn’t tend to panic.

What kind of potential does he have? Would you have him back at Luton?

I think he has a lot of potential, to play as many games as he did and consistently perform so well is a great indication to the standard he is already at and I’m sure he will get even better. I would have loved him back at Luton and given how worried the fan base was when he left speaks volumes.

 Hope that helps, if he performs for Wigan like he did at Luton then you will love him.

 

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A tough approach needed for Bury and Millwall

 

 

“They are the best team in the league. I know we have done well against them but they have recruited fantastically well. They are a very, very good team. Their subs’ bench is absolutely incredible. They are a top team and it’s one we can look forward too. I’m really looking forward to this week to get a game plan together to compete with them.”

It is the final sentence in David Flitcroft’s comments that is the important one. The Bury manager will surely have more tricks under his sleeve when his side visit the DW Stadium tomorrow. With two wins and a draw under his belt against Latics already this season, can he do it again? What tactics will he employ?

The likelihood is that Flitcroft’s main tactic will be to adopt a physical approach in an attempt to put Latics off their game.

The same can be expected from Millwall on Tuesday. Latics were mauled by the opposition players and their crowd at the New Den in a key relegation match in mid-April last season. It was early days in Gary Caldwell’s new managerial position and Millwall manager Keith Harris’ intimidatory tactics worked. The 2-0 victory to the Lions proved to make no difference in the long run, with both clubs being relegated.

Neither Bury at home, nor Millwall away, is a particularly comfortable fixture for Latics. The Lancashire derbies have their own special feel and the competition can be fierce. Playing away at Millwall is never going to be easy, given the fiercely partisan crowd. Bury have only won one of their past ten, but Millwall have won four out of the last six and are serious challengers for a playoff place.

Latics have not played at all well against Bury this season. The League Cup tie in mid-August was decided by a controversial penalty given against Craig Morgan, the Shakers winning 2-1. But Morgan was to have his revenge by getting a last minute equaliser at Gigg Lane in early October in a 2-2 draw. Wigan’s performance in the 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Gigg Lane in early November was woeful, although it did leave one wondering how interested they were in progressing further in the competition.

But the Wigan team that faced Bury in the first half of the season, during the gelling process with so many new players, is a different kettle of fish than the current one. Latics are second in the table, on an 11 game unbeaten run, scared of nobody.

The win at fellow promotion hopefuls, Walsall, pushed them above the midland team for the first time. Wigan were much the better team on the day, but only won the game in the closing minutes. Will Grigg missed a handful of clear opportunities. Had he scored at least one of them he could have out the game out of reach for the home side.  However, it must have been a bittersweet return to the Bescot Stadium for him with the home fans jeering his every touch. Grigg is a fine centre forward at League 1 level, but such profligacy cannot continue if Latics are to attain that automatic promotion spot.

A home win for Latics tomorrow is most likely, but they must be careful to avoid complacency. But then again they have good reason to make a big effort in retaliation for the bad results against Bury so far. Flitcroft claims a long injury list, but it remains to be seen what side he will put out tomorrow. One thing is for certain – Latics can expect a rough reception from the visitors.

The Millwall game is another against a promotion hopeful and will not be easy. The Lions are now in fifth place, but surprisingly their home record has been poor, having a record of W7 D2 L7, whereas away they have the second best stats in the division behind Walsall. But Neil Harris will surely once again rile up his players and his crowd to give Wigan a hard time.

Gary Caldwell has used 33 players this season, six of whom were on loan and have gone back to their parent clubs. Two players – Grant Holt and Richard O’Donnell – departed over the January transfer window. Four players are injured or in recuperation – Michael Jacobs, Reece James, Kevin McNaughton and Sanmi Odelusi.

But Caldwell has a squad that is the envy of the other League 1 managers. The ability to bring players off the bench of the quality of Craig Davies and Yanic Wildschut gives Caldwell that added factor that the other managers do not have.

Wigan Athletic have the quality to win the division. But much will depend on avoiding complacency and being willing to slug it out with teams like Bury and Millwall.

Neither match is easy. Both are winnable at a physical cost. It would be no surprise if Caldwell once more rotates his team or changes its shape in the next two games. A return of four points from the two would keep Latics on track. More would be even better.

Latics’ legs go as Bury take advantage

Jordan Flores showed glimpses of genuine class on his debut in the starting lineup.

Jordan Flores showed glimpses of genuine class in his debut in the starting lineup.

“In the first half and at the start of the second half I think we played with the intensity that I know we can, we kept the ball well and gave it to our attacking players in the right areas. We got in their faces and made it very competitive throughout the first half, and came out with even more intensity in the second. “

Gary Caldwell was right about that. Some two thirds of the way through the match the Latics had started to flag. The early intensity and running off the ball had dissipated and it came as no real surprise when Leon Clarke headed his first goal from a left wing cross in the 63rd minute. Neither was Clarke’s second goal in the 89th minute as Bury had continued to threaten.

Caldwell fielded a 4-3-3 formation, akin to those of the Uwe Rosler era. Kevin McNaughton started at right back, with Leon Barnett partnering Craig Morgan in the centre of defence and Reece James on the left. Max Power, David Perkins and Jordan Flores made up the midfield, with Will Grigg at centre forward, Sanmi Odelusi on the right wing and Michael Jacobs on the left.

Wigan looked lively in the first half, with Jacobs marauding inside from the left, willing to take on defenders. However, the most clear cut chance came in the 33rd minute when Flores went on a long run from the half way line, rounding goalkeeper Walton in the six yard box before the keeper recovered to parry his shot. There was lots of running off the ball, with the players full of effort and commitment, but not surprisingly the players appeared to lack that telepathy which guides the final pass.

One wonders if Caldwell had told his players to make a point of running at the Bury defence as Jacobs did that straight from the kick off in the second half. He was upended in the box and Grigg hit home the penalty. It will do the centre forward a world of good, getting off the mark. He had been lively throughout and was soon to pull the ball back for Odelusi who spooned over the bar with the goal gaping.

Bury had by no means played badly by that stage. They were well organised and had played some good football. As the game moved on they looked so much more physically stronger than Wigan. Following Clarke’s first goal Latics had a throw in on the left hand side, at the half way line. There were four players close to the ball but not one made a run to receive it. The result was a short throw being made and Latics losing the ball. So many players had seemed to run out of steam with one third of the game still left.

Caldwell brought on Ryan Jennings after 70 minutes to replace the ineffective Odelusi. Grigg went off 8 minutes later for Craig Davies to enter. But neither substitution was to breathe further life into Wigan’s play. The substitution of Billy Mckay for Flores in the second minute of time added on seemed pointless, but somehow reminiscent of the treatment the Northern Ireland international received from Malky Mackay.

But there were positives for Wigan. Perkins shone, once again being the standout player. At 33 years of age he seemed to have the legs that his younger teammates lacked, covering acres of ground, solid in defence and with good distribution. Jacobs looks a good signing, with his willingness to take defenders on and to shoot. He has pace and determination. There were signs that Grigg and Jacobs will make a formidable pairing up front as their understanding of each other’s games improves. Both have skill has commitment and have enjoyed previous successes in League 1. McNaughton looked like an accomplished player throughout and will surely stake a claim for a regular starting berth. James performed well on the other flank.

Flores had a starting debut to remember, showing silky touches of genuine class, including that superb run on goal in the first half. Like any young player still learning the game, there were times when he switched off and made mistakes and by the end of the game he looked exhausted. Caldwell will have to decide how to develop the 19 year old further, whether to carefully nurture him within the club or to send him out on loan where he will get more game time. At any rate, Latics have got a player for the future in the Wigan lad who has a Spanish father and English mother.

It will be interesting to see if Caldwell sticks with 4-3-3 for the Doncaster match on Sunday. The centre of defence looked vulnerable to high balls in the second half and it led to two goals. Against teams with big, physically imposing forwards he might well opt for a line of three central defenders, including the powerful Donervon Daniels, who was on the bench last night. Moreover the return of Jason Pearce will surely strengthen the centre of defence. If Caldwell opts for three at the back it is to be hoped that he will play a 3-5-2 formation, rather than a 3-5-1-1 which leaves the centre forward isolated.

A home defeat to a team just promoted from League 2 can hardly be looked upon as a success. But few fans will bemoan an exit from a League Cup competition that adds extra games to a season that is already long and arduous.

Fans can accept last night’s result to some degree, knowing that Caldwell’s new team is a work in progress and the players need more game time together to develop that mutual understanding which enables good team play.

What is hard to accept or understand is why Bury looked so much fitter than Latics. The conspiracy theorists might say that Caldwell was not really interested in the League Cup and the players’ performances in the final third of the game reflected that. But the more likely explanation is that the visitors were simply physically fitter than Wigan.

Last year’s start of the season was marred by a disastrous pre-season programme that left the players largely unfit. Changes were clearly made this year, but the players still do not look fully fit. At the final pre-season match at Blackburn, Caldwell surprisingly made eight substitutions. Of the starting eleven at Coventry only three – Morgan, Perkins and Power – played the full 90 minutes at Blackburn.

The fitness issue at the beginning of the season goes back to Owen Coyle’s days. One can only hope that the people in charge of the physical preparation of the players at the club are getting it right this time around.

The Doncaster game will provide not only a glimpse into whether the players are starting to meld together as a team, but also whether they can match their opponents physically.