Luton boss believes Walton deserves his U21s call-up

Luton keeper Christian Walton
Luton keeper Christian Walton
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Hatters boss Nathan Jones has spoken of his delight for keeper Christian Walton, after the on-loan stopper was called up to the England U21 squad this week.

With Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford withdrawing, Walton, who joined Town for the season from Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer, will meet up with the squad for the UEFA European U21 Championship qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

It shows that coming out of Brighton’s environment into ours isn’t a backward step if you like.

Nathan Jones

The 20-year-old, who has 12 caps at U19 and U20 level, has been in the U21 squad before, while at Bury last term, but had to withdraw through injury.

On his call-up, Jones said: “It’s brilliant, he probably would have got called up the time before, but because he wasn’t starting the game, I’ve got a very good relationship with Gareth Southgate and he said ‘we’ll leave him there with you, as what we want to do is get him to a level where he’s playing and starting.’

“I think that might be the case now, so they’ve called him up, which is great for Christian, great for Brighton and great for us, but that’s why we brought him here.

“I know what he gives us and he has been an England U21 and playing very well for us so we’re happy he’s got the recognition he deserves.

“It shows that coming out of Brighton’s environment into ours isn’t a backward step if you like.”

Walton has played every minute of Luton’s League Two fixtures this term, but although keeping only two clean sheets, has impressed thoroughly with some wonderful saves.

Jones continued: “He has, but I knew that would happen.

“When I was there (Brighton), Christian made his debut at White Hart Lane against Tottenham in the cup, and did fantastically well, he really did.

“Then he made two league starts against Blackburn and against Middlesbrough, kept two clean sheets in the Championship, so we knew what type of player we were getting.

“It’s just last year wasn’t as productive for him as he wold have liked, but that’s the learning curve, that’s a career. Now he’s come out here to what we believe is a good environment, we trust him, there’s pressure on him to do well, but not ridiculous pressure, as every little mistake will be punished.

“We know he’s going to do fantastically well, we know at times he’s going to get tested, but that’s why they come out.

“If he was the finished article he would be in a Championship side, no doubt because of the attributes he’s got.

“So we’re very pleased to have him, and it’s proved good for not only us, him and Brighton.”

It’s not just Walton’s saves that have caught the eye this term, but the command he has in the area, particularly from crosses, while his distribution has impressed too.

Jones continued: “He has certain characteristics he can be better at, shot-stopping, because if you’re perfect then you never let a goal in.

“So there’s room improvement but on the floor, we ask questions of him and he’s very comfortable, but we want him to be even better because he can get better.

“Then coming for crosses, he’s been very proactive and that bravery and positivity we like in our keepers, I like that in a keeper.

“He’s ticking boxes and that’s why we brought him here.”

Although Craig King is expected to deputise against West Brom U23s in the EFL Checkatrade Trophy this evening, Jones is hopeful Walton will be between the posts for the visit of Crewe on Saturday, adding: “We hope he doesn’t miss Saturday, we have an agreement with England and we are hoping to have him back as he’s important player for us.

“He wouldn’t have played on Tuesday because Craig needs testing and will get that test but we are hoping to get him back for Saturday.”