This season Brighton & Hove Albion’s matchday programme Seagull has had numerous players facing fans’ questions in the Hotseat. Here are Christian Walton’s answers.
Did you always want to be a keeper, even as a little kid?
CW: I’ve always been big for my age, so going in goal always felt natural for me. I can remember my mum taking me to a mini-soccer course on a Saturday morning and the coach actually ran an under-9s team and they needed a keeper. I was only seven at the time but I played for his team – Wadebridge – the following week and never looked back. I was then spotted by Plymouth Argyle and was with them from the age of ten until I moved to Brighton.
Who was your goalkeeping hero growing up?
CW: It was Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, although I wasn’t a Man United fan as a kid. Schmeichel was instrumental in all the good times United had under Sir Alex Ferguson and when he left, there wasn’t anyone who could fill his boots until van der Sar took over. Being at Plymouth I also watched Romain Larrieu a lot. I got to chat to him after games in the players’ lounge and my dad became quite friendly with him. He actually became assistant caretaker manager when I broke into the first-team there, so I had a spell playing for him.
What’s the best save you’ve ever made?
CW: Last year I was playing for the U21s at Ipswich and I remember Stephen Hunt whipped in a cross to the far post, which one of their lads has side-footed from two yards out. I somehow managed to get a hand on it and push it away.
What was it like moving from your home in Plymouth to Brighton at such a young age?
CW: I’ve always been a bit of a home boy and didn’t like staying away, but it’s something you have to get used to if you want to be a footballer. The first couple of weeks were quite difficult but once I made friends, it soon took my mind off my family and friends back home. I stayed with a host family who were really good to me. I’m with another family now and they have become good friends rather than just a host family. When you’re settled off the pitch it helps you on it, definitely.
What’s the best advice you could give for a young keeper hoping to turn pro?
CW: Enjoy it. Enjoy all your training sessions and playing games and always work hard and stay focused. If you do all that then you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.
LATEST NEWS FROM SEAGULLS.CO.UK
- ALBION FANS' CUP FINAL MEMORIES
- TEIXEIRA WINS LIVERPOOL AWARD
- ANKERGREN DELIGHTED WITH NEW DEAL
- JFC IN PRELIMINARY ENGLAND U21 SQUAD
- FIXTURES TO BE ANNOUNCED ON JUNE 17TH
Are goalkeepers really mad?
CW: Well, if you came down to one of our goalkeeping sessions you’d think so! Stocko [David Stockdale], Casper [Ankergren] and Antti [Niemi] are all characters and really make training enjoyable. They have certainly helped bring me out of my shell, which is what I’ve needed as a young goalkeeper. I was quite shy and didn’t say much when I first came to train with the first team but I’m much more comfortable with them now.
Be honest, did you spent plenty of time in the toilet before making your Albion debut at Tottenham?
CW: I’m not someone who gets like that, to be honest. I’m quite level-headed. Don’t get me wrong, I did have nerves but it was only when we got to the stadium and I saw the pitch was wet and slippy that they kicked in a bit. Then I walked back down the tunnel and all the big guns started turning up for Tottenham – then the reality of the situation set in. But I remember Stocko telling me to just go out and enjoy it. As a young keeper, there wasn’t any pressure on me as such, so I took his words on board and really enjoyed the experience. In hindsight, it’s been good for my career to have been thrown in the deep end at such a young age.
Is it true you could have been a professional cricketer instead of a footballer?
CW: I was in an academy development squad for Nottinghamshire, which was based in Cornwall and acted as a feeder for their senior set-up. I also had West of England trials at U14 and played for Cornwall in the age group a year above me. I was a bit of an all-rounder and was following my dad, who played at a decent level, and my brother. When I got to 14 I had to make a decision between football and cricket because games were clashing during the summer months and I chose to stay with Plymouth Argyle, which was a good decision in the end.
I play in goal but I’m worried I’m not tall enough, so how tall do you need to be?
CW: It varies depending what country you play in. For instance, Iker Casillas is not the tallest, but is first choice for Real Madrid. I would say that in England, a lot of the keepers are now units, given the more physical nature of the leagues here, and you have to be at least 6ft 1ins, 6ft 2ins to be a top keeper. As I said, I’ve always been tall for my age so have been lucky in that respect. Both my parents and my brother are tall as well.
Who’s your room-mate at the Albion?
CW: I’ve had a few this season. I was with Solly March before his injury and he used to moan a lot about my snoring. More recently I’ve been sharing with Glen Rea and he’s a strange guy – just weird! I sometimes find him dancing around the room on his own and some of his moves are just horrific!
What’s it like playing for England, a different type of game?
Jimmy The Cat
CW: It’s a slower game for sure, and you tend to find at these younger age groups that some of the opposition defending can be quite erratic at times. Many teams will still have players going forward that can hurt you though; for instance we played Montenegro last year and although they weren’t the best, they had one player who absolutely ran the show for them. I really enjoy playing for my country. It’s a real honour and is helping with my development as a goalkeeper, no question.