Stoke City fans already potty about ‘Super Jonny Walters’

Ireland may have discovered a new folk hero this week - understandably so, after events at the Aviva Stadium - but don’t forget that we in Stoke were there first, writes Martin Spinks.

Stoke City fans already potty about ‘Super Jonny Walters’

Long before he pulled on the green of Ireland, he already had football fans here in the Potteries feting him from pillar to post.

For here was a player with the heart of a lion, the power of an elephant and the skin of a rhinoceros.

Not quite the speed of a Cheetah, perhaps, but you can definitely add the stamina of a Siberian husky.

Watching him on pre-season mountain runs in Austria was an eye-popping Jon experience as he left the best of the rest gasping in his wake.

No wonder Stoke’s human roadrunner clocked up more than 100 successive Premier League starts once upon a time.

He’s been a Stoke folk hero for more than five years now after a career stalling at the likes of Blackburn and Bolton finally won its big break in the summer of 2010.

Sniffily written off by many as no more than an honest trier, Super Jonny Walters, as Stoke fans soon dubbed him, was quickly burrowing his way into their affections for far more than just the odd drop of sweat and frequent spillage of blood.

He and Robert Huth, incidentally, seemed to be in competition over who could get through most head bandages in one season.

His seemingly modest goalscoring record of 54 in 224 appearances is a lop-sided appraisal of his scoring record - as he will never tire of telling you - because he’s frequently been shifted out wide to combine the delights of an attacking and defensive shift.

No full- back, as Danny Higginbotham will attest, could ask for a better winger in front of him.

But there still remains a rich catalogue of golden memories between Walters and the back of the opposition net.

His two superbly-taken goals at Wembley in 2011 stole the headlines from several worthy contenders after a 5-0 demolition of Bolton in the FA Cup semi-final.

His perfect hat-trick of right foot, left foot and header against QPR last January was a graphic demonstration of his versatility.

His penalties haven’t always been as sweet as that which beat his old Stoke team-mate Asmir Begovic on Monday night, but Stoke fans will forgive him many a miss following events at QPR in May 2013.

In a game Stoke had to win to pull clear of late-season trouble, he boldly grabbed the ball late in the game to smash home not one, but two penalties, after his first effort had been scrubbed off for encroachment.

Chelsea are among those to feel the full force of his hero status in the Potteries after two contrasting goals again demonstrated his under-rated scoring skills.

You might remember his control and volley past Begovic during a 1-1 draw in the Capital Cup just three weeks ago.

Less remembered, however, was a brilliant solo effort back in April 2011 when he nicked the ball off David Luiz out on the left near half-way, marauded forward, cut inside Michael Essien, then smashed his shot between Petr Cech and his near post.

So there just a taster of why Walters could well rank alongside the club’s greatest names when his lungs finally throw in the towel.

But hey, he’s big enough to go round, so come and join us in celebrating a true hero of the masses.

Martin Spinks is Stoke City correspondent of The Stoke Sentinel.

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