Football / FA Cup Countdown: Walker finds wonderland: A Scot discovers his promised land in Bolton after leaving Paradise: Derek Hodgson on the striker aiming to finish off Wolves

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The Independent Online
ANDY WALKER'S most treasured football memory is not the goal he scored at Anfield in that remarkable third- round replay last week, nor that Bolton Wanderers beat Liverpool but what happened afterwards: 'Our crowd, about 9,000 of them, were going mad. They had been fantastic throughout. What touched me was the way the Kop stayed put to applaud us off the field. I'll never forget that.'

Nor will Bolton. Nat Lofthouse, now the club president, thought it the greatest night in the club's history but then, there are any number of superlatives flying around Central and East Lancashire at the moment. Though Willie Moir and John McGinley would have their champions, Walker might just be regarded as the best Scots' player in the club's history, especially if he were to score again in the fourth round at Wolverhampton on Saturday.

When Walker joined Motherwell as a boy, he could hardly have expected that the pinnacle of his career would be reached with one of England's traditional but faded town clubs although, being a smart lad, he would never have been as embarrassed as a famous compatriot, who, on being told he was being transferred to an English club, searched a road map in vain and then asked: 'Where's Everton?'

When it was put to Liam Brady, the Celtic manager, that he might have made an error in selling Walker in February last year, he replied: 'Not really. You can't guarantee everyone a place. Some good players have to leave because they simply cannot get a game with us.' Fair enough; Brady then had a choice of Charlie Nicholas, Jackie Dziekanowski, Gerry Creaney, Tommy Coyne and Walker - for two places. He allowed Walker, on Phil Neal's pleading, to go on loan to Bolton.

Nor was it a difficult judgement. Walker, a former Baillieston Junior, had cost Billy McNeill pounds 350,000 when he moved to Paradise from Motherwell in 1987, after a useful but not outstanding record of marksmanship, 17 League goals in three seasons. He added another 16 in his first season at Parkhead, won a cap in 1988 (as a substitute against Colombia), but injury and the increased competition for a place brought only 12 appearances, and no League goals, in the next two seasons.

Before joining Bolton he had a desultory loan spell with Newcastle United, playing twice but without scoring. One sniff of Burnden Park air, however and, Hey Preston] (as they say in those parts), four goals came in five games.

Neal persuaded Celtic to transfer him permanently, for pounds 160,000, and Walker became, in the words of one North-west journalist, 'the best bargain buy in Bolton's history', scoring 37 goals in 50 matches. That gilt-edged bargain did not prevent Neal from losing his job and being replaced, last May, by Bruce Rioch.

Neal is now assistant manager at Coventry and an England coach but he probably feels he should have been allowed to continue at Burnden. 'He simply wasn't getting enough chances at Celtic and they were willing to let him go on loan,' Neal said.

'I thought the difficulty might be persuading him to come to Bolton. For a lot of Scots, leaving Rangers or Celtic is the end. Andy told me afterwards that I had sold him the club. Anyway he came down, showed what he could do and we were able to conclude the transfer. I never had any doubts about him. Andy Walker will score goals wherever he goes.'

As Scotland have not been over- burdened with goals in recent times, might not Walker's spree have recommended him to to the national coach, Andy Roxburgh?

Walker has what might be termed an exile's sceptical view of such promotion. 'Not really,' he said. 'You have to be realistic. I don't think goals in what is effectively the English Third Division will win me another cap. I have another season at Bolton with my present contract and I would like to think I'll be playing in the First Division by then.'

Walker is not your average roistering Scottish footballer. The son of a Glaswegian accountant, of average height, average build, he is very much the dedicated professional. In 1982 he wrote to every North American Soccer League club, asking for a trial, paid his own fare but could not get a work permit and hitch-hiked around, spending one night in a bus shelter in Toronto: 'It was foolhardy but a great experience.'

His post-Anfield celebration was 'a couple of drinks. The kids needed their Weetabix in the morning so there was no chance of a lie-in. They bring you back down to earth'.

Bolton's reserves visited Anfield last night, a week after their first team's FA Cup triumph there. They also won 2-0, this time in the Pontins League.

(Photograph omitted)

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