Is Brad Walker the new Danny Williams?
The similarities between the on-loan Crewe player and Williams, a Wrexham stalwart of the first decade of the century, are obvious. Big, strong and able to either play as a centre back or in front of the defence, both players have the attributes necessary to help a side battle its way through a season in the lower divisions.
It’s not easy to thrive outside the top couple of divisions without having players who can mix it in the middle of the pitch, winning more than their fair share of headers and tackles, and both Walker and Williams ticked those boxes.
Williams was one of my favourite players during his two spells at the club. His physical authority made him an imposing reference point when we didn’t have the ball, and he was able to distribute the ball accurately, as you might expect from a player who spent his formative years in the youth ranks at Anfield.
On the other hand, I wasn’t too sure about Walker at first, and have had to revise my view of him as time has passed. My first impressions weren’t particularly favourable. I saw him as a centre back playing ten yards too far forward, able to win the ball but rather limited when it came to using it.
I was also somewhat surprised to see him replacing Akil Wright in the holding role in front of the back four. Wright had been the revelation of the opening phase of the season; last season his ability to burst forwards wasn’t matched by his composure once he got into good positions, but this time around he’s played as a defensive midfielder with great discipline, a lack of final ball irrelevant as he hadn’t been asked to push forwards so much.
Walker’s use of the ball was more limited than Wright’s, and I struggled at first to understand why we’d made the switch. As time has worn on, I’ve started to see the logic though. Walker protects his back four with authority, and when we get things wrong, as we did in the second half at Chesterfield when we sat much too deep, he is able to help defend the box.
Indeed, when he was asked to step into a central defensive role at Dagenham he did well, if you can ignore the rather obvious blip when he put the ball past his own keeper!
He kept his cool from the penalty spot last Saturday too, which was impressive considering the wall of expectant fans he was faced with as he stepped up to take it!
So is Walker the new Williams? I hope so! There have been mutterings that he’d be willing to make his spell at The Racecourse a permanent one, and while I’d have been surprised to hear myself suggest this six weeks ago, I hope we’re able to tie him down to a long deal.