Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Young Star Is Ready for Big Future

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Young Star Is Ready for Big Future

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Whenever England play football in the North-East they can be guaranteed enthusiastic support ( but two players in tonight's Under-18 international against France will get a warmer reception than most at Hartlepool.

Killingworth-born Josh Walker, who plays for Middlesbrough, and Sunderland youngsters Jamie Chandler will probably have as many friends and family in the Victoria Park stands as the rest of the squad put together.

"I could probably have had thousands coming down from Newcastle to watch me, or that's what it seems like," says Walker. "I have had to get 50 tickets for my friends and family and there will be a lot of lads I know driving down on the night and paying on the day. It's always great, at any level, to play for your country and to play just down the road from where I am from makes it extra special. It's certainly the biggest game of my career at this level so far."

Expectations of Walker will be particularly high, not least because of the club he plays for. Boro are currently reaping the rewards of their own 'Golden Generation', with 13 players having made the step up from academy to first team.

When Walker came on as a substitute against Fulham on May 7, all 11 players in red were born within 20 miles of the Riverside Stadium. And Walker says his Premiership debut was as exciting as it was unexpected.

"When (then-manager) Steve McClaren took the young squad down to Fulham last year it was amazing," he recalls. "I didn't know until about half an hour before the coach left I was going to be involved in the squad. It was fantastic.

"When I heard my name was on the squad sheet I was totally buzzing. He took 18 of us down and I didn't expect to be on the bench. It was a fantastic feeling. When the manager told me to go on and man-mark Steed Malbranque, it was an amazing feeling. …

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