From Mike Walker to Sam Walker – a tale of Colchester United keepers
- Credit: Archant
Sam Walker could develop into the best keeper to don a Colchester United shirt since the days of his namesake, Mike Walker.
There is very little chance of current day Sam emulating the feat of former U’s legend Mike, in terms of longevity – Mike played 310 consecutive games for the U’s, between February, 1977 and January, 1983, and went on to rattle up 451 league appearances, second only to Micky Cook in the all-time list.
But Sam, recruited on an 18-month permanent contract at the start of this week, has already proved during two earlier long loan spells from Chelsea that he can become one of the U’s most talented custodians.
I have seen many, many keepers come and go, during my 20-odd years of covering the U’s, several of whom I have rated very highly.
The likes of Carl Emberson, Simon Brown, Aidan Davison and Ben Williams spring to mind. All became stalwarts between the posts, in the years following the U’s return to the Football League in 1992.
I was a big fan of both Emberson and Brown, even though both did commit the odd howler.
Emberson, initially recruited from Millwall for £25,000 in the summer of 1994, was the regular keeper when the U’s enjoyed their trips to Wembley in 1997 and 1998, the latter culminating in promotion via the play-offs to the third tier.
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His successor, former Tottenham trainee Brown, stayed at Layer Road for five seasons before his move to Hibernian in 2004. He had the odd off-day, but was a loyal servant to the U’s and played a key role in keeping the Essex club in Nationwide Division Two (League One equivalent) during several seasons of struggle.
Then there was the experienced Davison, who arrived from Grimsby Town in the summer of 2004 and became a vital cog in Phil Parkinson’s promotion winning squad to the Championship.
Davison was probably the most dependable of all the Colchester keepers I have watched, over the last couple of decades – he was in goal when the U’s gave Chelsea a huge scare at Stamford Bridge, before losing an FA Cup fifth round tie 3-1 in February, 2006.
In fact, of the two best individual performances I have witnessed, from a U’s keeper, I rank Davison’s wonderful display at Luton, on September 12, 2006, as top of the charts.
Davison was inspired that night, and I recall giving him a rare 10 out of 10 in the match-day ratings in the following day’s East Anglian Daily Times.
He almost single-handedly earned Geraint Williams’ men a point in a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road.
And what is the second best performance (in my humble opinion) from a U’s keeper over the last couple of decades?
Well, that goes to current day custodian Sam Walker, and his string of fine saves in a backs-to-the-wall goalless draw at MK Dons on New Year’s Day (I gave him 9 out of 10, though it was a really a 9.5!).
Walker is already top of my list, for the impact he has made as a loanee keeper – others to have impressed in that guise have included Jon Sheffield (six games in 1993-94), John Vaughan (1997 and ‘99) and Jimmy Walker (2008-09).
Now, over the next 18 months, Sam Walker has a chance to improve his game still further, with his future secure and settled.
The U’s should be the beneficiaries, and for Walker it could be the launch-pad for a dazzling career in the higher echelons of the game.
Carl’s top 10 permanent keepers to have played for the U’s, from Mike Walker’s reign (1973-83) to the present day:
1 Mike Walker (1973-83, 451 league games)
2 Alec Chamberlain (1983-87, 188 games)
3 Aidan Davison (2004-08, 99 games)
4 Carl Emberson (1994-99, 192 games, inc 13 on earlier loan)
5 Simon Brown (1999-2004, 142 games)
6 Ben Williams (2009-2012, 115 games)
7 Scott Barrett (1989-92, 97 games, 84 in Conference & 13 league on loan)
8 Dean Gerken (2004-09, 109 games)
9 Mark Cousins (2004- to present, 58 games)
10 Andy Woodman (2000-02, 54 games,inc 6 on loan)
Bubbling just under: John Keeley, Richard McKinney, Mark Walton. John Cheesewright, John Grace