INTERVIEW: Sam Walker impressed by talented young Reading FC goalkeepers

Sam Walker  e
Sam Walker has played nine games for Reading this season

In George Legg and Luke Southwood, Reading FC are developing some talented young goalkeepers.

That is the feeling of Sam Walker, who has played nine first team games for the Royals since making the step up from League Two Colchester United over the summer.

Walker, 27, began the campaign as backup to Vito Mannone before an injury to the Italian gave the 6ft 6in shot-stopper his chance.

The former Chelsea youngster kept his place for six games on the spin before being replaced by Anssi Jaakkola after suffering a knock in training himself with youngster George Legg taking a spot on the bench.

Sam Walker is impressed by the young goalkeepers at Reading

All three senior keepers have been handed a chance to stake their claim and while Jaakkola was preferred to Walker for last weekend’s draw against Ipswich Town, boss Paul Clement says the choice between all three keepers could not be tighter when they are all fully fit.

And Walker believes the club has a strong goalkeeper group, something they have been famous for in the past.

“We’ve each picked up an injury at some point but we’ve got a really good, strong goalkeeping unit here,” he said.

“I’ve come in and really enjoyed working with the guys and with Beas (goalkeeper coach Dave Beasant) and we’ve got George Legg and Luke Southwood that work with us as well.

“It’s a really strong camaraderie with us all pushing each other for better and a strong goalkeeping unit as with every other unit in the team is ultimately going to benefit the team because we’re all pushing each other to be better.”

He added: “I do remember (Marcus) Hahnemann and in recent times we’ve seen Alex McCarthy here and he’s doing well with the England set-up and is playing week in, week out in the Premier League.

“Recently I was keeping tabs on what was going on in the Football League and I know that Ali Al-Habsi had a really successful period here and Adam Federici of course.

“So it’s a good production line of goalkeepers and it’s reassuring for me to be here at a place where goalkeeping is clearly a strong point for the club.”

READ: Every word from an angry Paul Clement following Reading’s draw with Ipswich

The man who played a big role in the success of two-time player of the season Al-Habsi was coach Beasant.

The 1988 FA Cup winner and England international joined Reading in 2015 and Walker says his pedigree can only help in improving him as a player.

Ali Al-Habsi won player of the season twice

“It’s incredible for me as a goalkeeper to work with him (Beasant) everyday,” said Walker.

“The career he had was incredible and he’s gone on to have a fantastic coaching career as well. That experience that he tries to feed through to us, you can’t really compare that with too many other goalkeeping coaches up and down the country.

“He’s great to have around, not just for us as goalkeepers but also the rest of the lads for them to bounce ideas off him and speak with him about various things. He’s a great guy to have around.”

While Jaakkola heads off on international duty with Finland, Walker is set to welcome Mannone back into training following an ankle injury during this two-week break alongside youngsters Southwood (20) and Legg (22).

The latter duo spent last season out on loan at Bath City and Barnet respectively while another talented goalkeeper in Lewis Ward (21) is currently away at League Two Northampton Town.

And Walker, who had six loan spells himself away from Chelsea, says those temporary moves are vital.

“Working with those guys day in, day out, I’ve got big respect and they’ve got a lot of potential,” said Walker.

“George Legg works with us on a pretty much daily basis. He’s a big guy, pretty much similar frame to myself and he’s had a couple of loan spells. I actually played against him last year when I was at Colchester and he was at Barnet so I kind of knew him.

“Both really good guys, got a great work ethic and attitude as well. I haven’t come across Lewis too much but I know he’s out on loan at Northampton.

“I’ve been in a similar situation when I was a young player at Chelsea and it’s very difficult to break through.

“But you’ve just got to keep working hard, go out and get your experience when you can on loan. That’s invaluable for me.

“The more experience of adult football you can get, you can’t really compete with that kind of experience.

“That’s what they’ve got to try and strive for.”


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