Town return, Keane fall-out and his long-term future – Jon Walters’ big interview
PUBLISHED: 19:16 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:16 31 August 2018
Jon Walters is an Ipswich Town player again, eight years since departing for Stoke. Here’s what the 34-year-old had to say after completing a loan switch from Burnley.
Q: Welcome back Jon. How does it feel to be an Ipswich Town player again?
A: Yeah, great. I’ve already seen a few familiar faces about the place, it was straight into training today and it was a lively start to it.
Q: Have you spoken to any of your former team-mates here about the move?
A: A couple. There’s been a few texts and the phone has not stopped since yesterday. I’ve switched it off and put it to one side otherwise my head would be scrambled. I’m in a hotel at the minute and just trying to sort out a few things.
Q: You said this move was a no-brainer. Did you have other options that were better geographically? Maybe closer to the north west for the family?
A: Yeah, there was, but the owner (Marcus Evans) rang me and I spoke to the manager here.
Sometimes when a club makes an effort to bring you in, and you know the place so well... I have so many good memories from my time here, so for me it was a no brainer to get some football under my belt and help the current situation that we’re in.
I’ve seen the games and the lads aren’t far off. There are a lot of new faces, a lot of young lads that are in the same situation I was so many years ago. First and foremost I am here to play, but I’m also here to help bring those lads on as well.
Q: How do you look back on your three years here?
A: I have nothing but good memories. It was a great time and a real turning point in my career (moving up from Chester). This club gave me a chance and believed in me. I worked hard, forced my way in and the rest is history.
I’ve always followed the club’s fortunes since I left. It’s a club that, in my eyes, should be up there challenging. When I go to other clubs I always tell the lads that Ipswich has all the facilities and are a club that is geared for the Premier League. It should be there really. That’s the aim – to get back there.
Q: How do you look back on how it ended here in 2010? It was all a little acrimonious (falling out with manager Roy Keane)
A: That’s part and parcel of being a footballer. There were different things going on behind the scenes, family wise, and things like that.
I moved back up towards home and it also gave me the chance to play in the Premier League. I’ve done that since I left.
You never hold grudges. You just get on with it.
Q: How do you get on with Roy now? You ended up working with him again at international level.
A: Look, it was fine. When he first joined the camp it was ‘oh no!’ But it’s been fine and you just get on with it. As I say, I’m not one to hold grudges.
Q What have your family made of the move? Are they old enough to remember your time in Ipswich?
A: I’ve got a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old and a seven-year-old little boy. My eldest has a good memory and remembers her time at Bealings School.
It would be nice for them to see their dad play football after the year I’ve had!
Moving clubs is part and parcel of being a footballer. I’m on loan until January so they are not going to be moving down, but they will be coming down at weekends to watch the match.
Q: How has the last year been for you having not played much football? You made five appearances for Burnley last season.
A: I had a bit of an issue at the beginning of last season. I’d done all of pre-season, I was fit, but my knee was getting a bit sore and I was told to rest it for 12 weeks and build my legs back up a bit. I did that and when I came back it was still sore. That was frustrating because I knew what it meant.
I had the operation in December and was back in March. I was fit but not picked. I was training every day. Then I went away with Ireland in the summer and played some games. I came back pre-season raring to go, but it wasn’t to be.
I played a fair few pre-season games – six, seven, eight games – but when it’s not to be, it’s not to be.
I just got my head down and worked really hard, as I always do, did everything I needed to do right, which stands me in good stead. I’m not going to be a player that sulks. You have to keep yourself fit.
Q: It’s a six-month loan. Do you still see your future at Burnley?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. It was just a case of getting out to play. I’m hoping it goes really well here and we take things from there.
First and foremost it’s about playing games regularly, Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, and getting back into the swing of things. I’m just really looking forward to it.
Q: There is some competition for places up front...
A: Listen, I’m not coming here thinking I can just put my feet up and get given game time. I have to work for it the same as anyone else – and I will. The hard work started straight away with a session today. Hopefully I’ll be involved on Sunday.
Q: What a game for you to make your second Ipswich Town debut in…
A: Yeah! Hopefully I’m involved. What a great game to come into. Hopefully it can really kick-start the season for us. I know we’ve got an international break on the back of this, so it’s always nice to get three points going into that.
Q: What are your memories of East Anglian derbies? You played in four...
A: They’re full on. You know it’s going to be 100 miles per hour to begin with. There will be two teams really battling out.
As a footballer you want to play in atmospheres like that and when there’s a real edge to the game. Ever since I’ve left here it’s been like that in every game at Premier League level. Everything is sharp and quick. One mistake leads to a goal.
You have to be right at it. These games are great to play in.
Q: What have you made of the players here so far? No concerns you can move away from the bottom of the table?
A: No. I’ve seen some games and there’s not been too much in them, whether it be a bad decision or just a little bit of sloppiness.
There are a lot of new faces here, a lot of young lads making the step up as I once did. Sometimes it can take time to adjust a little bit, but training today was lively and you can see there is a lot of talent in the group.
Every single player has got a point to prove, including myself. I really do think it’s good group that might just need some time to gel. I think the signs are good.
Q: What advice can you give the players stepping up the leagues, as you did when moving from Chester to Ipswich?
A: There’s different challenges for different leagues. The lower leagues can be a bit more physical and you don’t get a lot of the ball. Then when you step up it’s a case of having your standards and not letting them drop. Don’t give the ball away, because if you do it’s generally a goal.
I know the Championship can be end-to-end like a basketball game, but you want to stop that, you want to control the game and have high demands of yourself. I did when I came here and the lads who have just arrived here should do the same.
The aim for any footballer is to play at the highest level possible. A lot of the lads here have stepped up from a lower league and their aim now has got to be to play in the Premier League, either by taking Ipswich up or earning a transfer. They’ve got to have high aspirations.
It’s full on, it’s a different demand and sometimes it takes time to adjust. But they are here because they are good enough and the manager believes in them.
Q: Can you be a mentor to them?
A: Of course. I can pass on my own experiences. It will be good for them having someone here who’s made those steps up and knows how to do it. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and you need a bit of luck along the way.
I see a lot of young, hungry players here who want to do well. They just need time to settle. It’s only early stages in the season. Let’s hope they grow throughout the year.