Stoke’s Walters sets international target

STOKE CITY’S FA Cup heroes Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan have helped the Potteries club make a mockery of their long-ball label this season — now the Ireland duo are aiming to carry their domestic form onto the international stage.

The pair starred for Stoke as they hammered Bolton 5-0 in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, which earned Tony Pulis’s side a place in the final against the Premier League’s billionaires Manchester City.

Walters, in particular, was in majestic form beneath the now-famous arch, capping the victory with two second-half goals, the first of which was scored via a curling 25-yard strike.

It has been quite a journey for Walters who, only four years ago, was playing for Chester City in League Two before then Ipswich manager Roy Keane plucked the striker from obscurity and set him on his way to a £3m (€3.4m) move to Premier League Stoke three years later.

The 27-year-old’s form in Pulis’s side earned him his first full Ireland cap in November in the 2-1 win over Norway and his second followed three months later in the friendly win over Wales. Walters looked set for his first taste of competitive action when he was called into the squad to face Macedonia in March’s European Championship qualifier.

But, when his newborn son Eli was born with fluid on his lungs, Walters pulled out of the squad to be with his family. But having hit five Stoke goals since that 2-1 win over Macedonia — including his Wembley double — the striker is hopeful of being involved in the games against Northern Ireland and Wales in May.

“I was called into the last squad but my little boy was born and he wasn’t doing too well in hospital when he was only a couple of days old so I pulled out,” Walters said.

“The manager Giovanni Trapattoni understood and I have spoken to him since and I look forward to the games in May. Eli is fine now, he was born through a caesarean and sometimes babies born that way can have chest problems, he had a problem with a lot of mucus on his lungs.”

The two ‘Home Nations’ games will serve as an opportunity for fringe players to impress Trapattoni before the Euro 2012 qualifiers start again in June with a visit to Macedonia.

Now Walters is hoping for the opportunity to add to his two caps, not to mention score his first international goal, following some encouraging correspondence with the Ireland manager.

“I’ve spoken to the manager and I am sure he will be impressed with the goals,” Walters added.

“I have been scoring in the league so I look forward to getting called up again and, if I do, playing in the qualifiers.”

Walters will be hoping to join up with Dublin-born Stoke team-mate Glenn Whelan who, despite being a regular for his country, has started just eight league games for Stoke this season.

The midfielder has forced his way back into side now after a slow start and he knows he will have to work hard to stay there if he is to add to his 27 caps.

The former Cherry Orchard youth-team player epitomises the relentless work ethic and tireless enthusiasm that Stoke are famous for. But the 27-year-old is not about to rest on his laurels with a final against his former club and a summer of international fixtures high on his agenda.

“I’ve been out of the team for a long time and I’ve worked really hard to get back in,” Whelan said.

“So now I have done that I have to work just as hard to stay in the team because I know there are other lads champing at the bit to get in.”

More in this section

IE_180_logo
Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox