Walters aims to cap remarkable season with FA Cup win

ROLLERCOASTER doesn’t come close to describing Jon Walters’ season.

Starting out as a crucial member of Roy Keane’s youthful squad, everything took a sharp turn for the worse within days of Ipswich Town’s surprise opening day win at Middlesbrough.

A perfect illustration of Keane’s famed temper, the man once billed by his boss as one of the best in the Championship was told – publically – that he would never play for Ipswich again.

Walters’ crime? Well that depends on whose side you believe with Keane saying the skipper didn’t play in the Carling Cup win at Exeter because he was engineering a move to the Premier League.

Faced with having his reputation besmirched, Walters insisted he had caught a vomiting bug, claiming: “I even took a picture of my sick and sent it to the physio because I knew Roy would not believe me.”

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After such a bust-up, a move was inevitable and the former Town Player of the Year signed for Stoke City for �2.75 million.

But still the war raged and Walters risked alienating his once-loyal following at Portman Road by famously claiming – a full three months after departing – that his former team mates were walking on “eggshells” around Keane.

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During a remarkable season, it hasn’t all been turbulent with Walters finally settling into life as a Premier League footballer, becoming Stoke’s joint top scorer this season – including two in their 5-0 thrashing of Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final.

And his unforgettable 2010/11 campaign could end in perfect fashion if Walters and his team mates manage to cause a cup final shock and beat favourites Manchester City.

Walters said: “It will mean everything (to win the Cup), without a shadow of a doubt. It is what you want when you are a little kid. I remember watching the FA Cup final and then going out and recreating it in the park.

“I can’t argue with the fact that this is probably the best point in my career, we are doing good things at the football club and long may it continue.”

After struggling to adapt at first, Walters has enjoyed a rich vein of form in the second half of the season – culminating in his starring role at Wembley in last month’s semi-final.

He said: “I’m not too sure if any of the lads have played at the new Wembley before the semi-final so to have that as a memory can only be a good thing and an inspiration to take into the final. We will have that in the back of our minds.

“No one saw it coming, but everything just went right. In games throughout the season, we have been threatening to score a lot of goals but haven’t put our chances away.

“Everything we hit in the first half went in and in the second half, it could have been more than five.”

Walters’ season is in some ways typical of his entire football career. Starting out with Blackburn and then Bolton but failing to make the grade, he moved on but downwards to Hull, Wrexham and Chester City.

But his career was resurrected after he impressed against Ipswich in a FA Cup match, signing for the Blues for �150,000 in 2007.

Having endured football’s up and downs, he understandably describes today’s match as the pinnacle of his career.

He said: “To play in the best league in the world is definitely where you want to be – that is what every players aspires to. The Championship is a completely different animal to the Premiership but it is nice to know I can cut it with the best of them.”

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