Wadebridge goalkeeper clinches dream Championship move
A GOALKEEPER from Wadebridge could be playing Premier League football next season after joining Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion.
Christian Walton, 17, is regarded as one of the most promising young shot stoppers in the game, and prior to his move to the Amex Stadium last month, a clutch of clubs, including Manchester City and Fulham, had watched the Cornishman in action.
But after receiving positive reports from no less than six Brighton scouts, Seagulls' boss Gus Poyet tabled a bid for the 6ft 4ins teenager, who agreed a three-year contract with the south coast club.
Walton will continue his scholarship, before signing a professional contract in the summer.
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And with Brighton hoping to clinch their place in the Championship play-offs, there is a possibility Walton could be in the Premier League next season.
He said: "It's a great opportunity for me. I just want to knuckle down, work hard and hopefully one day I will break into the first-team squad."
It's amazing to think that only ten years ago Walton was persuaded to play in goal by his coach at Wadebridge Town, Richard Centini.
His potential had already been identified by Centini, as Walton was also a talented batsman for Wadebridge.
Centini, who owns Bridge Sports shop in Wadebridge, explained: "He was only seven when I got him to play in goal. He was that good we put him into the U9s side.
"At first he was a bit worried about playing, and he was talking about playing outfield.
"But I knew how good his handling was from coaching him in the cricket team.
"He only spent a year with us before Plymouth came in for him. It didn't come as much of a surprise when Brighton came in for him because he is awesome."
A number of clubs have been monitoring Walton's performances for Argyle's U18s this season. He didn't make a first-team appearance for Argyle, though he was an unused substitute in their FA Cup first round tie with Stourbridge in November 2011. Following a trial spell with Brighton, Poyet made his move for the Cornishman on the recommendation of his goalkeeping coach Andy Beasley, who believes Walton has massive potential.
He said: "I'm delighted to get him signed up. The scouting system did a great job in highlighting him so I went to watch him and straight away I was impressed by him.
"Bringing players in like Christian gives you that bit of excitement and you want to see him grow. He's very level headed and I'm looking forward to seeing him flourish."
Walton, who went to Wadebridge School, joined Argyle at the age of ten after impressing scouts playing for his hometown club, Wadebridge Town.
Wadebridge chairman Steve Cudmore is immensely proud that a player who has come through the youth ranks at Bodieve Park is now a Championship player.
He said: "We are all absolutely delighted for Christian. Ever since he arrived here you could always see there was something special about him.
"What an absolutely brilliant opportunity he now has in the Championship with Brighton."
The goalkeeper's father, Tim Walton, who played more than 60 games representing Cornwall's county cricket team, is understandably proud of his son's achievements.
He said: "It's just incredible really, I couldn't be any happier for him.
"He came home for the weekend and he was telling me that he was on the same side as Matthew Upson and Wayne Bridge in training. It's just unbelievable."
Walton has already played four games for Brighton's U21s' side and next season he has been told he will be third choice goalkeeper.
The Seagulls' current number one is former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
It may be some time before the boy from Wadebridge gets his first-team chance, but he could follow Cornwall goalkeepers Nigel Martyn and Kevin Miller in making it all the way to the top flight.