- Current Team
- Republic of Ireland, Stoke City
- September 20, 1983
At a time when English-born players of Irish ancestry continue to fill the back pages with themes of non-committal and indecisiveness it is easy to forget those players of a similar heritage who have consistently displayed an admirable level of devotion and pride in playing for the Republic of Ireland. One such player is Jonathan Walters who, along with previous stalwarts such as Kevin Kilbane and Kevin Sheedy, contributes significantly to dispelling the myth that playing for a country that is not of your birth may simply be for professional gain.
Born in Liverpool, Walters qualifies to play for Ireland through his Dublin mother, who passed away when he was a young teenager. This maternal link, coupled with regular childhood visits to Ireland, clearly nurtured his love for Ireland. In an interview to garethmaher.com in 2013 he remarked:
I’m incredibly proud every time I get to play for Ireland and I always think of my family when lining up for the national anthem. Once I hear the music starting, I always think of my Mum and how proud she would be.
However, Walters appreciation of playing for the Republic of Ireland is not based purely on cultivated patriotism. His unconventional professional career has seen him roller coaster from the brink of first team football at Blackburn Rovers to several years spent roaming the dimly lit back roads of lower league English football before salvation arrived in the form of Ipswich Town. Undertaking such a circuitous route to Premier League and international football demonstrates the tenacity, humility and self-belief required to succeed in the face of adversity. Tony Pulis touched on these qualities when speaking of Walters in 2011:
He’s certainly my type of player, he gives everything, he never stops and whatever you’ve paid him, you know he’s earned it.
Walters’ international career began brightly, scoring twice for Ireland’s U21s on his debut against Switzerland in 2003. However it was not until 2010, when he made his move to Stoke City, that Walters warned his first senior international cap at the ripe old age of 27 when brought on by Trapattoni as a half-time substitute against Norway. Walters has since become a regular in the Ireland team despite often having to forsake his favoured position as a striker to play a more selfless role at right-midfield. Walters has nonetheless gained some goal scoring notoriety with a well-taken header in the 4-0 playoff victory over Estonia in 2011 and a brace in the heart-breaking 2-2 draw with Austria in 2013. Walters has previously remarked to journalists about watching Ireland as a child playing in the World Cup and knowing that it was something he wanted to do. Few others would be more deserving of that chance.
- Author: Philip Dunphy