Where Are They Now: Leigh Walker

Leigh Walker in the build up to Boro's FA Cup third round clash against Chelsea
Leigh Walker in the build up to Boro's FA Cup third round clash against Chelsea

Since bringing his career to a close, Leigh Walker has gone from wearing goalkeeper gloves to oven gloves .

In fact, the former Scarborough FC number one, who is probably best known for taking the role between the sticks during the 2003-2004 FA Cup run, can’t remember the last time he watched a game.

But the memories he collected during his stay at the McCain Stadium will fill that void for life.

“When I finished playing I bought a part of my mum and dad’s bakery business, nobody likes food like me,” he joked.

“I’ve also bought a few properties and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing.

“I honestly haven’t watched a football match in I don’t know how long, I don’t get the opportunity.

Walker with celebrity chef Delia Smith

Walker with celebrity chef Delia Smith

“I have my daughter every weekend, she takes up a lot of my time and I’m into my weightlifting as well.

“I do miss football a bit though. When I look back I wouldn’t swap my apprentice days at Sheffield United or my time at Scarborough for anything.”

Walker started his career at Sheffield United, then made a short-term switch to Doncaster, before impressing in a reserve game that led to his return to Bramall Lane.

He was eventually brought to Scarborough by Russell Slade in 2001 after a spell with Barnsley.

“When Sladey got the job at Scarborough I was on loan at Stalybridge and there were only a few games of the season left,” he added.

“He got in touch and asked what I was doing the season after because he wanted me to replace Andy Woods.

“The rest is history, I went on to spend five years there.

“It was a great laugh as well, I’ve never been in a dressing room with so many characters in it.

“At times you would have thought it was a mental asylum, but that was what Sladey wanted, 11 animals that would go out and fight.

“I had some great card schools, with players like Karl Rose, Jason Blunt, Tyrone Thompson, Colin Cryan, Chris Senior, Adam Sollitt, Jake Speight and Simon Weaver.

“We recently had the get-together in Scarborough, which was good because I caught up with a few of the lads.

“Football is weird because you go from spending every day together, to catching up with the lads on a very occasional basis.

“I still speak to Speighty and Tyrone. I had some hard times a few years ago and Jake let me move in for a few months.

“Its great that football can leave you with mates like that.”

Walker’s top memories obviously come from the run through to the FA Cup fourth round in 2003-04.

Though it was the third round replay against Southend that stands out more than the visit of the Chelsea millionaires.

“There was a lot of media attention and focus on the Chelsea game, but we just got on with it,” he added.

“Sladey just told us to go out there and make it horrible for them, we did exactly that.

“We only lost it 1-0, we had the penalty appeal and the chance for Colin (Cryan).

“I was expecting to be really busy with the quality that they had, but apart from the goal and Frank Lampard hitting the bar, they didn’t really threaten.

“It was the Southend one that stuck out for me though because they had a great chance to level the game seconds after Mark Quayle scored our late goal.

“The ball fell to Jay Smith about four yards out and I managed to flick his shot onto the bar. That moment was just unbelievable for me.

“I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I was possibly the best keeper in the Conference at that time.

“I was selected for the England C team and everything was going well.”

Walker was then thrust into the national press in the days that followed the Chelsea tie, but this was due to his shirt-swap with fellow keeper Carlo Cudicini.

He said: “Sky had already arranged to come around to my house and have a chat about my autographed shirt on the Sunday after the game.

“I left it in my kit bag in front of the washing machine and then when the cameras came round I saw it on the line without the autograph on it. My mum had washed it.

“They took the shirt away and said that they’d get it signed for a second time, but the next thing I knew I was headlines in all the papers.”

Scarborough went on to remain unbeaten at home in the season that followed, but Walker felt that the building blocks placed during the previous campaign should have been added to.

He said: “We were unbeaten at home, but we should have gone on to make the play-off at least.

“We had a good squad of young players during that FA Cup run, and it just needed a few more lads added to it.”

After Nick Henry’s time in charge came to an end in 2005, Neil Redfearn was handed the reins, a move that wasn’t smiled upon by Walker.

“Everyone at that club was good to me, but he just wanted to make my life hard,” Walker said.

“The first thing Redders told me when he took over was that I needed to lose a stone in weight.

“He then tried to change things too quickly and it didn’t work. We had enough with the lads we had.

“He ended up being sacked by Scarborough and has been sacked by every club since, which says a lot to me.”

Walker’s stay at Scarborough finally came to an end in 2006, despite the fact that Mark Patterson, who replaced Redfearn, was still interested in his services.

“Redders told us that he wanted us back in on the Thursday after the loss against Exeter that sent us down. I didn’t even show up,” Walker said.

“I spoke to the chairmam, Malcolm Reynolds, and he told me that they were trying to get Paddy in.

“I had gone to Grantham on good money at this point, but Paddy rang me.

“He said that he could only offer me £150 because he could bring in a lad for nothing from Hull.

“I was offered a lot more by Grantham, so it all came to an end.

“When I look back I had a great time at Scarborough, especially in the early years up there.

“They were easily some of the best days of my footballing career.”