Belfast Telegraph

Walker’s bald ambition for Big Two cash

By Chris Holt

More used to feeling the wind blow through his flowing blond locks, Glentoran icon Chris Walker will be feeling a chill at the Oval tonight as he takes a razor to his famous curly barnet.

And it’s all for a very good cause.

The teak-tough ex-Glens defender will be shorn on the pitch during half-time in tonight’s ‘Big Two’ Carling Premiership clash in east Belfast with the proceeds going to Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.

Walker, who came up with the idea after learning that a childhood friend’s son had contracted a brain tumour, is hoping to raise around £5000 through his brush with the shears and is urging Glentoran and Linfield fans to dig deep.

“When I was playing, my image was my hair and I got a lot of stick about it but it was something that I was always known for,” said Walker.

“So when I was looking for something I could do to really grab people's attentions it was the obvious choice.

“In all my time at the Glens I think I had it cut just a couple of times — I think once for my wedding and maybe one other time, so people knew me for it.

“I always got a bit of stick from Linfield fans but just for those couple of hours when we were playing.

“I like to think they had even a wee bit of respect for me as a player and I know most of it was good banter, so hopefully Linfield and Glentoran fans will put their hands in their pockets to help this cause.

“I am hoping to raise about £5000 and there will be people with buckets at the game collecting so if you see anyone, please give generously for a great cause.”

Whether he was taking on this venture or not, there is no doubt that Walker would have been at the Oval anyway.

The 36 year old, who spent 12 very successful seasonS at Glentoran, is, as he always was, a Glenman and is a regular at home games. Since retiring from the top flight in 2008 after a season at Armagh City, Walker has had time to take in games in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to do before.

As an outsider looking in now, the central defender says the game has changed so much, even in the short time he has been on the sidelines and admits that he doesn’t think his no-nonesense style now fits into the modern era.

“I don’t think I could play Irish League football these days,” he claimed.

“It’s changed a lot in a very short time and the way I played doesn’t fit into that.

“We are used to seeing players going down too easily in the big leagues around Europe but it has crept into the Irish League and I couldn’t cope with that.

“The way I played, I suppose you could say I was a bit rough. The way things are now I would be booked for every tackle I put in and I suppose that’s because of the rules brought in by FIFA which are basically taking tackling out of the game.

“The way I see it, tackling should still be a big part of the game. This probably comes across badly but there is no better sound in football than two committed players smacking each other in a 50-50 in the middle of the pitch.

“Obviously I am not talking about anyone getting hurt, but people like to see commitment and, unfortunately, you don’t see enough of that these days.”

He added: “When I played there were strikers who you would tug and kick all day and they wouldn’t complain. They’d just get on with it and try and get back at you by scoring. People like Garry Haylock and Sammy Shiels come to mind.

“Now if you brush past some of the forwards they go down in a heap!”

Walker is also in the perfect position to guage how his old pal Scott Young is faring as a manager.

The two enjoyed many happy times on the pitch and Walker has been impressed by his managerial nous but he thinks he is lacking one player — and should be inspired by someone very close.

“He’s done really well and there is a big difference in the way the team are playing and going about their business. The football is great but I think they need a Pete Batey (Young’s current assistant) in there to break up the play.

“The Linfield game is huge for him and I hope it will be a good night for Glenmen and hopefully for me too.”

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