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Jake Walker ready for Europe after his release by Aston Villa

When players are told they’re no longer wanted by an elite club after spending the majority of their childhood in the academy it can be a tough for them to take.

Jake Walker (right) - pic Newtown
Jake Walker (right) - pic Newtown

Some head down the pyramid and slip out of football, some get other big clubs and others go into part-time football with the hope of maybe coming back into the full-time game one day.

For Jake Walker, who signed for Villa as a nine-year-old, the latter applies to him.

The 21-year-old, who hails from Bayston Hill in Shrewsbury, was a key figure in Villa’s youth teams through the age groups and turned out for the youthful Villa side who took in Liverpool in the FA Cup in January 2021.

However, by the end of the season, the defender now turned midfielder was without a club.

After going on trial with a number of English clubs he opted to sign a one-year contract with Newtown in the Cymru Premier and is now heading into the Europa Conference League qualifying campaign with the Welsh club after a stellar season.

When he lines up against a team for Andorra or San Marino in July, it will just over a year since he left Villa after such a long spell.

But reflecting on his release from the club, Walker, who lives in Shrewsbury, insists it is something that he has taken in his stride and hasn’t let it get the better of him.

He said: “I signed as a nine-year-old and stayed on as a scholar, then I got a two-year professional contract – and there were certain points when there could have been opportunities to push into the first team. There were points when I thought it was possible – but you have to have a bit of luck and it just didn’t happen.

“It wasn’t really a tough time for me to be honest – I was mature enough to realise that you have to be in the right place at the right time.

“Yes, it was disappointing, but looking back it wasn’t the end of the world and you have to get on with it.”

Walker came through the ranks with a number of other players, including Jacob Ramsey, who he still speaks regularly with.

And Walker has admitted that from an early age you could see he was going on to do something.

He added: “I still speak with a few lads now. Jacob Ramsey is one, and you could see he had the potential to do something.

“He got to 18 and really kicked on then, and it has shown with what he’s done this season, he has just grown and grown.”

Walker, who is completing a sports science degree through open university has just penned a new one-year extension at Newtown ahead of their European campaign.

And it was the pull of potentially playing in Europe, something a lot of English lower league players never get to experience, that originally lured him across the border.

“I am buzzing for it now, we have the draw in a few weeks and we can’t wait to see who we get,” explained the midfielder. “When I came in last year the side had just been knocked out of Europe by Dundalk, and when I can in that is something I wanted to experience.

“We’ve got a really good squad here, so if we can get someone from maybe Andorra or San Marino in the draw, we will have a good chance of potentially getting through and playing some big sides in the next round.”

Beyond his European experience, Walker is looking ahead to next season and getting more games under his belt in Wales’ top flight.

Looking further ahead, he still has ambitions of returning to the full time game – but for the moment, he is happy where he is.

“I’d like to go back to full-time at some point,” said Walker. “But like I explained, you have to be in the right place at the right time really and I am happy with where I am at the moment.

“I want to get 20 to 30 games under my belt next season – then maybe see where it takes me beyond that - but even with this league, it is a very good league that is just getting even better.”

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