Some understandable yet disappointing news has emanated from the club this morning with the announcement that goalkeeper coach Jimmy Walker has opted to leave in order to join Paul Lambert’s newly assembled backroom team at Ipswich Town.
In a statement on SAFC.com regarding his departure, Walker has cited that being closer to his family was the main motivation behind the move:
It was a very difficult decision for me, as I have loved every minute at Sunderland and it’s a fantastic club.
Being away from my family in recent months has been challenging so I would like to thank everyone at the club, especially the manager and staff, for their understanding.
I wish the club and the fans every success for the rest of the season.
Whilst Walker’s time at the club has been short-lived, it would be fair to say he’s made a decent impact both on and off the pitch, and will be a huge miss around the club.
It can’t be understated just how important his role has been so far this season.
Sunderland fans know only too well that the big problem area in our team last season was in the goalkeeping department, and Walker’s job of not only working with new goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin but also being a key component in rebuilding the confidence of Robbin Ruiter was undoubtedly going to be a huge task.
McLaughlin’s form this season has been immense and over the last month he’s unquestionably been Sunderland’s best player, keeping four consecutive clean sheets, and Walker deserves credit for his part in that.
Dutch stopper Ruiter has played only twice this season, both in cup games, but anyone who has watched him would admit that he looks a different player to the one that suffered so badly in the Championship last season.
And aside from his influence on the goalkeepers, Walker’s jovial nature and infectious personality has had a clear effect on the squad as a whole - something which Sunderland manager Jack Ross gave a nod to in his comments following the ex-West Ham United keeper’s departure:
We are sad to see Jimmy go but understand his reasons.
He leaves with our very best wishes for the future.
We can’t help but agree with Jack Ross - it’s sad to see Walker leave but his reasons for doing so are understandable. With his family based in the south, the emotional cost incurred by being away from them is one that no job or amount of money is worth.
So now we must move on, and hope that the impact he’s had on the squad during his short time at the club won’t be detrimental to the progress that the club have made both in the goalkeeping department and in the fantastic morale that the current squad and backroom staff clearly have when around one another.
Finding Walker’s replacement is now one of the top jobs on our recruitment team’s list, and it’s vitally important that they try to bring someone in with all the enthusiasm and personality that Walker brought to the role.
Ipswich Town have undoubtedly got themselves a top goalkeeping coach and we’re sad to see him leave. Good luck in the future, Jimmy.