By Craig Chisnall
SAM WALKER went from obscurity to Chelsea within two years – and despite leaving the Blues he can’t wait to see how his future pans out.
The giant goalkeeper this week signed for Colchester on a permanent 18-month deal after spending the last year on loan with the U’s.
It brought an end to a six-year spell at Chelsea that had taught him plenty yet saw him fail to make a first-team appearance.
But having been a Kent Sunday League player with Gravesend & Northfleet at 15 to attracting a six-figure transfer fee when Chelsea signed him from Millwall, Walker has absolutely no regrets over his career so far.
“This is a brilliant move for me and absolutely the right time, probably for all parties,” said Walker, who stands at an imposing 6ft 6ins.
“I’ve loved it since I came to the club and when the talks started to make it permanent it didn’t take me long to get it all sorted.
“I’ve got the chance to really kickstart my career as a No 1 goalkeeper and if I do well here then I’m sure I will get the chance to go back up.
“Chelsea was an unbelievable experience. To go from Gravesend to a first-team pre-season trip with Millwall and then onto Chelsea within two years was unreal.
“I’d never even been in academy football before Millwall so it was just a whirlwind. I didn’t get a first-team chance with Chelsea but being in and around those players and on pre-season tours to Germany and Hong Kong working with some of the best players in the world taught me so much.
“I owe so much to Mark Beeney, who is one of the Chelsea goalkeeping coaches, and I wouldn’t be the player I am now without him.”
And the U’s coaching staff played a major part in keeping Walker in Essex after his loan expired with the 4-2 win at Carlisle last weekend. Boss Joe Dunne is never afraid to put his faith in youth while former Crewe goalkeeper Ade ‘George’ Bankole now a coach with Colchester, has stood out for Walker.
Having already made 100 career starts at the age of 22 in loan spells with Barnet, Yeovil, Bristol Rovers and Northampton, Walker believes that United is the perfect place to propel his career to greater heights.
“Joe and George were huge factors in me coming here,” added Walker, who is an ever-present this term.
“There were a few other interested clubs but Joe has really backed me and you don’t find many managers who put so much trust in young goalkeepers.
“Bringing young players through is a big part of the ethos of the club and we’ve got a lot of exciting talent here, mixed with a few older heads, who I believe can go a long with the club and in their careers.
“The likes of Freddie Sears, Sanchez Watt and now myself have all taken a step down for a chance to impress and that’s a great tribute to Joe.
“And George is a fantastic coach as well. He’s a real character but knows his stuff and my relationship with him since the first day we met has been great.
“I’ve learned a lot from him already and I’m convinced he can keep improving me.
“Colchester has felt like home since I came to the club and it’s not far from home in Kent. I’m happy on and off the pitch and hopefully that’s going to help me produce my best form.”