Andy Warren: Walton deal shows things are slowly changing at Ipswich Town
- Credit: PA
Things are slowly changing at Ipswich Town. The signing of Christian Walton is the latest reminder of that.
There was a time when the idea of signing loan players full-time was out of the question at Portman Road. Well, the good ones anyway.
Ryan Fraser, Tom Lawrence and Bersant Celina all arrived on season-long loans in the final years of Mick McCarthy, with us all knowing their stays would only last a year. A good season in the Championship meant they quickly became financially unobtainable. The chances of signing them permanently were barely worthy of discussion as their loans came to an end.
Walton should be unobtainable for a team sitting 11th in League One, really. He’s a goalkeeper of Premier League schooling, highly rated by Brighton for many years, and proven in the Championship. But here he is, signed until at least 2024, arriving in his prime years at just 26.
It’s an excellent piece of business for Ipswich Town.
Yes, the fact his Brighton contract was expiring this summer and didn’t require a hefty transfer fee has aided the capture, but there was still plenty of convincing to be done.
First up, Walton’s Premier League salary at Brighton is one Town couldn’t come close to paying. And while Ipswich certainly pay well in League One terms, and compare favourably to some in the lower reaches of the Championship, Walton could likely have picked up more elsewhere had he moved as a true free agent in the summer.
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Yet Ipswich have sold him their vision, meaning he’s happy to commit his long-term future despite the current position in the table and all of the turbulence a change of manager can bring. Remember, it was Paul Cook who brought him to Suffolk, having won a League One title and then solidified in the Championship with him between the sticks at Wigan.
That’s not been an issue, though. Walton’s known to be impressed with new Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna and the vision for a club who, whether it’s this season or next, don’t wish to hang around in League One for too much longer. He clearly believes the talk can become reality.
And don’t underestimate the role played by Rene Gilmartin, Ipswich’s newly-appointed goalkeeper coach who is close to Walton from their time together at Plymouth, during the Town No.1 formative years. He’s played a key part in twisting his arm.
Walton wants to play games. He doesn’t want to warm a bench. And that’s an attitude to be admired and coveted in the modern game. He pushed this move through too.
We’ve seen enough in his 18 appearances as a loanee to suggest Walton is Town’s best goalkeeper in recent years, certainly since the three-time, back-to-back, player-of-the-year Bartosz Bialkowski.
Walton’s ability to command his box is an upgrade on what they’ve had in League One, with calmly-collected crosses removing pressure at difficult moments. That’s an attribute Town haven’t possessed for a very long time, going back beyond Bialkowski.
He can make great saves, too. Of course he can. The stop at Wycombe in November springs to mind, as lightning reflexes kept Anthony Stewart out. He made an another excellent one to stop Bolton’s Dion Charles on Saturday, too.
They say a top goalkeeper can be worth 10 points a season.
The former Brighton man is in his prime, forms part of a growing Town spine and is capable of moving up and then through the leagues with Ipswich. That’s the kind of player who will make the difference for the Blues.
It’s hard not to like what the club’s new ownership have been able to provide during their first nine months at the helm, along with the club’s off-field management team led by Mark Ashton.
If you could excuse the pun, the signing of Walton is something of a Gamechanger. Being able to sign top-performing loanees from higher-division clubs is another reason to believe the club is heading in the right direction.
But, at some point though, we all want to see that translate into results on the field. That’s the true barometer of success.
Having Walton signed, sealed and delivered will help that quest.
Now, about Macauley Bonne...