Bengaluru FC has roped in England U-20 Captain Josh Walker as their I-League Marquee player. Josh has played in Premier League, UEFA Cup, FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The introduction of Marquee player in I-League was expected to raise the standards in Indian Football. Till now we have seen, unrecognized international players, mainly from Africa, earning crores of rupees in Indian Football as we never explored outside our comfort zones. In recent years, Shillong Lajong FC and Pune FC, brought some professionalism in Indian Football. The introduction of Franchisee teams in I-League saw the entry of JSW backed Bengaluru FC.
The new entrants in Indian Football, surprised everyone with their professional and systematic approach on and off the field. Former Manchester United academy product Ashley Westwood was roped in as the manager, while players like John Johnson and Curtis Osano proved that English players are the way forward for Indian Football. Bengaluru FC lifted the I-League title in their debut season, and the primary reason for their success was their professional approach.
Bengaluru FC squad consisted of a bunch of youngsters, with few established stars and foreigners. At the end of the season Bengaluru FC has retained most of their impressive performers. Among the foreigners central defender John Johnson, defender Curtis Osano and striker Sean Rooney was retained by the champions. Midfielder Johny Meynonger was released and the introduction of marquee player in I-League meant that his replacement had to be a marquee player.
Ashley Westwood and co. didn’t hesitate to make a move and went in search of a I-League marquee player back to England. Coach Ashley Westwood had got a player in Joshua Walker, who has captained the England U-20 Team and has also represented the England U-20 team in the FIFA U-20 World cup in 2009. Middlesbrough academy product Josh Walker, came through the ranks of the club and had made 7 appearances in English Premier League. As a part of his development, Josh Walker had played in various tiers of English football as well as in Scottish Premier League.
During his loan spell at SPL side Aberdeen, Josh Walker scored against German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup clash. Josh Walker has also played for notable English sides Watford, Bournemouth, Scunthorpe United, Stevenage Town, Rotherham United etc. before finding himself at Conference Premier (Division – 5) side Gateshead last season. The midfielder made 34 appearances for them last season scoring 6 goals in the process.
Josh Walker’s career has graph has been on a downward slope for some years now. A player who captained England U-20 side, FA Youth Cup winner with Middlesbrough, who has played in English Premier League, was plying his trade in English 5th division last season. His career has been on the decline for some time and he needs to rejuvenate himself to hit the limelight.
Bengaluru FC provides him an alternate path to success. Josh Walker cannot imagine an England call-up at this moment, but a chance to grab the lime light in Indian Football was an attractive proposition for the 25-year-old midfielder. His leadership qualities, set-piece abilities and all round midfield game are expected to add more venom and purpose into Bengaluru FC side who are preparing for AFC Competitions next season.
Bengaluru FC manager Ashley Westwood is familiar with Josh Walker, as the duo played together for Northampton Town during the former’s playing days. Defender John Johnson is also a familiar face for Josh Walker, and the former team mates are going to re-unite in India. The presence of two known faces in Bengaluru FC dressing room, especially the manager is expected to ease Josh Walker into Indian conditions.
Josh Walker was excited to re-join Ashley Westwood and John Johnson. “I am very excited to start this chapter of my career with the champions of India. I’ve been with John Johnson at Middlesbrough and he has only nice things to say about his stint with Bengaluru FC. I am also looking forward to play under Ashley Westwood. I cannot wait to get there and play in front of the amazing fans of the club of whom I have heard much about,”
Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood seemed upbeat about signing a marquee player in the mould of Josh Walker. Someone of his caliber is going to play in India for the first time next season. “Joshua is a talented player, comfortable with both feet and has a great attitude. He will fit in seamlessly into our scheme of things. There’s a fair number of clubs in England that were chasing his signature and it says a lot that we, at Bengaluru FC, have made him our player. Getting him also means we have been able to abide by the AIFF’s rule of signing a marquee player,”
The signing of Josh Walker is going to open a new era in Indian Football. England U-20 Captain, who has played in FIFA U-20 World Cup and in English Premier League is going to line-up for I-League champions Bengaluru FC next season. Garden City were deprived of top flight football action a season back and now they are going to witness a 25-year-old England U-20 Captain Josh Walker at their home ground. Franchisee football is going to benefit the Indian Football lovers in the long run.