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Jimmy Walker’s Walsall XI that could reach the Premier League

Jimmy Walker became a fan favourite at Walsall during his 14 years at the club over three spells, from 1993-2004 and 2010-2013.

Former Walsall keeper Jimmy Walker.
Former Walsall keeper Jimmy Walker.

Known as ‘Wacka’, the goalkeeper is the club’s record appearance holder with 534, etching himself into the club’s history.

He earned three promotions during his time at the club, while also winning Walsall player of the year in 1998/99 and 2001/02 and getting into the Second Division PFA team of the year in 2000/01,

The 46-year-old has played with a long list of great Saddlers players and here, after some deliberating, he picks his best XI from his time at the Banks’s Stadium, picking a 4-4-1-1 formation.

In goal, Walker resisted the urge to choose himself and instead decided on former Northern Ireland international Trevor Wood.

“When I was injured, Woody came in and never looked back,” he said. “It was one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen from a goalkeeper. He made save after save and got international recognition. For that one season alone, he was outstanding.”

Across the back four, Walker chose Chris Marsh at right-back, Derek Mountfield and Adi Viveash as centre-backs and Neil Pointon as his left-back.

“Marshy was a great squad member to have in the changing room, but also such an underrated player,” he said. “He had lots of quality, very good technically and could run all day.

“Although his legs had probably gone and he’d dropped around 40 yards deeper, Derek was unbelievable. It’s a pretty slow back two with Viveash but they were both outstanding.

“Pointon was a leader and for what he did in the game, he was a great guy. Great banter, would do anything for you and he was an outstanding player.That’s not a bad back four at all.”

The midfield four took a lot of thought from Wacka, who came close to adding Dean Keates to his side.

In the end he went with Darren Wrack on the right and Jean-Francois Peron on the left, with Vinny Samways and Martin O’Connor in the engine room.

He continued: “Without any hesitation, Wracky gets in. I still don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for how good he was. He was a brilliant player.

“Vinny has to play in this team. Oh my, he was like a Rolls Royce. We got him at the end of his career and he was still unbelievable, he never gave the ball away.

“O’Connor could cover every blade of grass, attacking and defending. He was a one-man engine room in the middle, so to complement Vinny he gets in. O’Connor would be this team’s skipper.

“Just for quality alone it has to be Peron on the left. Technically he was probably as good as I’ve seen at Walsall, he reminded me of Yossi Benayoun. There was nothing on him, about 10 stone wet through, but you just couldn’t get the ball off him. The way he moved with the ball was exciting to watch, so he gets in.”

In the forward areas, Walker initially chose Kyle Lightbourne to partner Jorge Leitao up front – that was until he remembered Paul Merson.

That decision was quickly reversed and the former Arsenal man joined the team as an attacking midfielder, playing in behind Leitao.

“Merson is probably the most talented player I’ve ever played with, at any level,” Walker added.

“His natural ability was on another level. I loved Sheringham at West Ham and Modric at Spurs, but Merse’s ability was as good as any I’ve played with.

“I enjoyed watching him, he did things in training that were ridiculous.

“He would chip me, curl one into the top bins – I always tried to be on top form against him.

“Jorge is nailed on for the team. When he played a game for us in pre-season he scored four in 20 minutes and they took him off and got him signed up there and then.

“He was like a one-man Portuguese army up top – I’ve never known a man run so much for the cause.

“The quality he had as well was very good. If he was playing now I’d be very interested to see how far he’d get – I think he’d be a Premier League player.

“If everyone in this team is at their peak, this is probably doing a job in the Premier League.”

Walker's XI: Wood; Marsh, Mountfield, Viveash, Pointon; Wrack, Samways, O'Connor, Peron; Merson; Leitao.

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