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Hard work the recipe for Walters

Jon Walters is determined to make the most of his second chance as he contemplates a first senior cap for Ireland.

The Birkenhead-born 27-year-old Stoke striker could make his senior debut in Wednesday night's friendly against Norway with injuries taking their toll on Giovanni Trapattoni's squad. However, it is a measure of the extent to which he has rebuilt his career that Walters was named in the initial party of 27.

Walters said: "I count myself lucky. There are not many lads who drop down the leagues and move back up. With all the hard work that goes into doing that, you do need luck as well, so I do count myself lucky. But I don't get too ahead of myself and I don't get big-headed or anything like that.

He added: "I work my socks off and do everything on and off the pitch right now."

Walters failed to emerge from the ranks at either first club Blackburn or Bolton, who he joined as a 17-year-old, as by his own admission, he enjoyed life too much off the pitch to produce his best on it, and loan spells at Hull, Crewe and Barnsley eventually led to a permanent £50,000 move to Hull in 2004.

He was again loaned out to Scunthorpe, Wrexham and Chester, and it was while playing his football with the latter in League Two that he got his break.

Chester took Ipswich to an FA Cup third-round replay, eventually losing 1-0 at Portman Road, but Walters did enough over the two games to persuade then Town boss Jim Magilton to make his move. He made almost 250 appearances for the Suffolk club before falling out with Magilton's replacement and his compatriot Roy Keane in spectacular style.

Keane, who had handed Walters the captain's armband, withdrew it after he missed a game because of a virus, and the former Manchester United and Ireland skipper's response when he was informed of the player's willingness to talk to Stoke was scathing.

Walters has improved his game to such an extent that he stands on the verge of international recognition, a source of intense pride for the family of his late mother Helen Brady.

He said: "It would mean a hell of a lot to me and my family. Since the squad was announced, I have been inundated with texts and phone calls, and moving ones from my mum's brothers and sisters and my cousins. It's meant a hell of a lot to a lot of people."

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