Reading continued their summer transfer business this week by bringing in goalkeeper Sam Walker on a free transfer from Colchester United. He’s not a household name at this level, so we spoke to two fans that will know him well from his time in Essex: Bryn Griffiths (@ColUBryn) and Richard Crick (@RichCrick).
What have you made of his time at Colchester?
Richard: For me Sam has been one of the most reliable and consistent players for Colchester over the last five years. Since joining, initially on loan in 2013, he’s seldom had competition for top spot and made over 200 appearances, seldom missing a match. For most fans it’s a sad loss but with his weekly wage rumoured at £3k sadly that’s not a sustainable salary for a club currently up and down in League Two.
Bryn: He was a fan’s favourite. The home South Stand of Colchester United fans always met his arrival between the pegs with his own song. Sam is way over 6ft and the song was. ‘He’s 7ft tall, he’s 7ft tall that Sam Walker he’s 7ft tall’.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
Richard: Sam is a model professional, he’s good with the fans, maintains a positive attitude and is always desperate to play - an attribute which allegedly caused some issues when not selected for the last two games of the season. To a degree he’s a confidence player and has made the occasionally unforced error but on the whole has been a fantastic servant at this level.
With height, youth and reach on his side he’s got great reflexes. His distribution has improved but undoubtedly the odd goal kick does go amiss! He also needs to improve the command of his area, whilst the Jobserve Stadium is often way under capacity it’s seldom Sam’s voice that you hear commanding from the area.
Bryn: He has a bit of a reputation for stopping penalties at the crucial moment, but his distribution can be a bit inconsistent.
Are you sad to see him leave Colchester?
Richard: Yes, for me he’s was one of, if not the best keeper in League Two. Most fans will think of him fondly and wish him the best for the future. I do however think it was the right decision for both Sam and the club.
He has made huge progression over his years with us but with a focus on youth and three of the understudies being younger than Sam (with him at a relatively young 26) I think the club were waiting for an opportunity to blood younger, but mainly cheaper talent!
Bryn: Absolutely, he was playing well below his level in the fourth tier. He was injured most of the season before last and I suspect that was the only reason that Colchester United kept him for so long. His departure has been met with respect and a torrent of well wishes.
Does he have what it takes to make it at Reading?
Richard: I think he would have to push hard to challenge the experience and quality of Vito Mannone but should the ex-Arsenal man make a few mistakes Sam would definitely be waiting in the wings to capitalise on them.
Knowing his attitude I don’t think he’ll be seeing this as a permanent no. 13 role. It’s also no coincidence that Clement has pulled in a goalkeeper that he knows and has coached before.
Bryn: I’d say a definite yes. I’d rate him more highly than Gerkin who left Colchester to play for Bristol City. In my opinion Walker has been the best goalkeeper to have played for the Us in the 14 years I’ve been watching them. I certainly can’t recall seeing many better keepers at our level. And remember he’s 7 ft tall!