Walters getting kick out of place at Euros
Stoke ace feels lucky to be part of history
AN IRELAND-DENMARK meeting in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 is a possibility and would see the Battle of Clontarf fought out again, this time on a football field in Donetsk or Warsaw.
That game would have seen Stoke boys Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan test out their pal and club-mate Thomas Sorensen in the Denmark goal, but the keeper picked up an injury in the build-up to the finals and didn't even travel to their team base in Kolobrzeg, a three-hour drive up the Polish coast from the Ireland team's HQ here in Sopot and Gdynia.
Walters doesn't need reminders of how lucky he is to be where he is -- it's only six years since he was playing in England's fourth tier for Chester City, his career going nowhere -- but if the 28-year-old did need to jerk his memory, Sorensen's case drives it home.
"At Stoke we were talking about it earlier in the season, and obviously with getting through the qualifiers Thomas was looking forward to it last week so obviously it's a big blow to him. The age he is now, and I think he got his 100th cap earlier in the season, so I know he was looking forward to pushing on," said Walters.
"Some people, top, top players never play in a tournament. I know the other end of the scale, where lads are dropping out of the leagues. I've a friend who got a bad injury last year, and is part-time now with Chester, Paul Linwood.
"I knew him as a young lad at Chester. He went to Fleetwood and they got promoted. He's had an operation on his knee and has just signed back part-time and he's doing his Uni work. So I know how lucky I am to be here.
"But to be honest we're in such a privileged position anyway full stop. With regards to anyone else, whether it be Kevin, Paul or Thomas, we're in such privileged positions as footballers to be able to come out here and represent your country."
Walters' international career has been one of stops and starts. It's almost a decade since he wore the green shirt for the first time, Walters qualifying through his late mother Helen, who was a Dubliner.
He blasted onto the scene by scoring twice for the Irish U21s in a rare away win, over Switzerland, in October 2003 and two weeks later played for a decent-looking Ireland U20 side (they had Whelan and Kevin Doyle in the team) when they beat Italy 2-0 in Dublin.
But things dried up after that as Walters, who had played in the Premier League for Bolton, slid down the divisions.
Having caught the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni and won -- and then kept -- a place in the squad ahead of pretenders like Leon Best, he could prove to be a vital player in the finals, as he showed with an impressive cameo as a sub against Hungary on Monday night.
Of course, he'd love to start more games (four of his seven caps have come as a sub) but he's willing to bide his time in games at Euro 2012 for a chance to come along.
"As a young boy I was brought up where if you were on the bench you have to prepare as if you're starting the game.
"Thirty seconds into the game one of the strikers could get injured and you'd be on," he says.
"Sometimes it's easier to come on as a sub. The game tends to be more opened up and you get more chances. It's the same at club level or international level.
"As a sub you always want to come on and make an impact. You want to be in the manager's mind to start with.
"Whether that's me, Simon (Cox), Shane (Long) or Kevin or Robbie (Keane) everyone wants to play and only one or two strikers can play.
"The boys are right behind whoever is playing and if you're on the bench you have to be ready to come on and make an impact.
"We get on so well as a unit.
"It's a tight-knit group here with Ireland. There are no airs and graces about anyone, we all get on really well and it's an enjoyable group to be around."