Finding the net is the next goal for happy full debutant Walters
ANOTHER step along the way for Jonathan Walters as the Stoke City man moved further up the ladder with Ireland after last night's display against Wales at Lansdowne Road.
And Walters says he has now set his sights on his first Ireland goal for the next chapter in his inter- national football career which began way back in 2003 when he scored twice on his debut for the Irish U21 side.
Walters didn't manage to score on his full debut last night -- few Ireland strikers do -- but he did play a part in the 3-0 win over Wales as it was some patient, clever yet aggressive attacking play from him which saw him dispossess Chris Gunter and set up the second Ireland goal for Damien Duff -- with a little touch from Shane Long along the way.
Walters appears to have bypassed the fringe front men like Caleb Folan and Cillian Sheridan, has possibly nipped in ahead of Leon Best (absent due to injury last night, though it's almost certain Best will be fit for play for Newcastle United against Blackburn on Saturday), and while it's hard to see the reliable Keane/Doyle axis being broken up for the Macedonia game, Walters is now in the manager's thoughts.
"Only the manager can decide if I have done enough to keep my place in the Ireland squad, but I feel I have done enough to at least stay in the squad," said Walters.
"We have real competition for places up front now and it'll be a battle to stay in the squad.
"I got my debut and my first start out of the way, now I suppose my first Ireland goal is the next target for me.
"The manager didn't say too much to me after. He just said he was happy with the team overall, a win, a clean sheet and three goals scored.
"It was a great start to the new year and he wants us to keep that up.
"It's more serious now for the next game as it's a qualifier, games like last night are great for getting the squad together and building up that team spirit. The Macedonia game is the next thing we have to achieve," Walters added.
"A 3-0 scoreline looks good, our first clean sheet in five games, but it could have been better.
"The game was wide open at the end and we maybe could have scored a few more goals, but I suppose you can't have many complaints with a 3-0 win, a clean sheet and a win is a great way to start this tournament.
"The tempo was slow early on. I think that was down to the fact that we had a lot of new players in the team and we didn't quite know what everyone was doing, but we had a chat at half time, we said we needed to up the tempo up a bit and we did that, our quality shone through in the end.
"We had three players making their full debuts so we were up for it, from my own point of view last night was a massive occasion for me, the crowd didn't affect things, if you're playing in front of twenty people or twenty thousand, your full international debut is still a massive thing, you have to get yourself going. So it was a slow start but we did get it moving."
While things are progressing nicely with Ireland, his club situation has been unpredictable. He has a healthy return of games (28) and goals (6) for Stoke this season, but while the first half of the season saw him start most weeks, in recent times he's been coming off the bench.
Walters said: "Since Christmas it's been about even for me in terms of starts and sub appearances.
"I started against Liverpool the other week but in the next game I only got about half an hour, when we beat Sunderland, so I just have to deal with that and go with what the manager wants. I'm happy to play wherever the boss wants me."