Following a two year spell at Meadow lane, Notts County, without breaking into their first team, Jimmy Walker joined Walsall as a 20-year old way back in July, 1993. Who would have thought back then he would have gone on to achieve hero-worship to play in over 500 games for Walsall and also play in top flight football with West Ham United and collect an FA Cup losers medal? Notwithstanding a serious injury-God forbid-he will soon break Colin Harrison’s all-time Walsall appearances record. Not bad for his early critics who said he wouldn’t have a decent career because of his height. ‘Super Jim’ was involved in three promotions at the Bescot Stadium and has twice won the Player Of The Season awards. He came as understudy to Mark Gayle making his debut in the October against Gillingham and was progressing nicely until a stupid challenge by Colchester’s Steve Whitton towards the end of the season left him in agony with a broken ankle.
Trevor Wood was signed and he kept Walker out of the side after his recovery until the last couple of games of that 94-5 season when he kept a vital clean sheet at Bury to help his side gain promotion under Chris Nicholl. The two keepers slugged it out for the No1 jersey the following season and for the first half of 96-7 before he could call himself first choice. Over the next few seasons he really built up his reputation as a shot-stopper enjoying two promotions under Ray Graydon and earned rave reviews as he won Player Of The Season awards in 98-9 and 2001-2. His testimonial game was a pre-season friendly against Birmingham City which helped swell the gate to a healthy 7,451. In the December he brought out his autobiography which was launched with a signing session at Bescot which several team mates, including Paul Merson, attended. At the end of the season he left Walsall on a Bosman free to join West Ham United as Walsall slipped out of Division One.
Jimmy helped West Ham United to the Premiership with a play-off final success in which he did serious damage to his knee which kept him out of action for best part of a year. He found himself as second choice to the likes of Roy Carroll and Robert Green at Upton Park but he did make his Premiership debut at the age of 32 and made around 20 senior appearances for The Hammers in his five years at the club-mainly in cup games in which the already popular keeper earned cult status for them by saving a penalty against their old boy Frank Lampard in the league Cup at Stamford Bridge. He was eventually loaned out to Colchester United and returned to Bescot to a hero’s reception from Saddlers fans when he appeared for the U’s here on Valentine’s Day in 2009.
A surprise move to Tottenham followed as Harry Redknapp sent for him as back up for his two keepers but he was never called upon to take part in any of the action, although he was named in match day squads. He was in October in a move that allowed a Walsall return to replace Jonny Brain to the delight of the Saddlers fans and played his part in Dean Smith’s great escape.
He reached his 500th Walsall game in the 3-2 home win over Brentford and to the delight of everyone signed a new contract this summer and it would be no surprise if he was still playing at 40. Jimmy Walker- a most deserving candidate for the Walk Of Fame who is still very much an actively participating Walsall legend.
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