Who Were Ya? Ian Walker
For the second consecutive column where we explore random goalkeepers from the last few decades, we feature an England international who plied his trade in the top tier for the lion’s share of his career.
Ian Walker, donning his trademark bob haircut, was a stalwart of the first decade of the Premier League and made four appearances for England over an eight-year period. Sven Goran Erickson’s Euro 2004 squad included Walker as third choice, in an era where England were void of any real goalkeeping talent.
Walker started his career at Tottenham in 1989 and after a couple of loan spells at Ipswich and Oxford United, soon became a permanent fixture in the Spurs starting eleven.
His sole medal came while at Spurs in 1999, defeating his future side Leicester City in the Worthington Cup final at the old Wembley.
The curtain-haired stopper’s most eventful period came whilst at Leicester in a rollercoaster four years at Filbert Street and then the aptly named Walker’s (now King Power) Stadium.
Walker’s inaugural season with The Foxes ended in a humiliating exit from the Premier League under Dave Bassett, in a campaign famed for the calamity of own goals from Frank Sinclair, the impotence of Ade Akinbiyi in front of goal and Walker’s own unconvincing performances.
Leicester finished bottom with some time of the season remaining, but bounced back at the first attempt in the 2002/03 campaign after under Micky Adams, with the meanest defence in the league. Much like they were comfortably relegated, they eased to promotion and held a twelve point lead over third placed Sheffield United, with a Harry Redknapp inspired Portsmouth pipping them to the league. His sterling form that season earned Walker a recall to the England squad
However, the elation of the previous campaign was short-lived and Leicester, again led by Micky Adams were sent crashing back down to the second-tier and would not play top-flight football again until their 2014 promotion, eventually leading to their sensational title win.
Walker was the subject of much ridicule from his own supporters and beyond. Ironically, he was the victim of abuse at the hands of the home supporters at the Walker’s Stadium, with one fan storming the pitch to confront him.
Further embarrassment was not far away, as he gifted Bolton Wanderers a point at the Walker’s, losing control of a seemingly straight forward ball from Kevin Davis, spilling the ball into his own net.
Despite a painful 2003/04 season, Walker did make the England squad for the European Championships in Portugal and remains as a fixture of the early Premier League years.
Walker retired in 2008 after a spell with Bolton Wanderers, with just a handful of appearances in three seasons at the Reebok.