Johnny Walker.……He Did It His Way
Family’s Pride As The Final Whistle Sounds
To mark the fact that tomorrow is the day on which Johnny Walker’s funeral takes place in Reading, we are happy to offer a little further insight here about the post-war Wolves goal-getter.
Soon after we heard the 90-year-old had passed away, we posted a full tribute on January 26, since when a few extra morsels of information have come our way from friends and contacts around the country.
They mainly concern his time down south with Southampton and Reading, although one habit presumably had at least some roots in Wolverhampton.
We hinted at the fact Johnny was once a considerable drinker – he could hardly be anything else with a name like his! – by revealing that he had taken the pledge to stay permanently sober from around the time the Saints won the FA Cup in 1976.
Given his longevity, it may also seem somewhat surprising that he was said to have once been a heavy smoker, although that social pastime was much more commonplace among sportsmen then than it is now.
Whatever his means of refuelling, he was nevertheless a serious player and we are informed that the nickname ‘Windmill Walker’ was applied by some because of a running style that included rather extravagant waving around of his arms.
And there are reports of how part of his National Service was spent,
none too amicably by all accounts, with Jimmy Hill. They shared an office in the Army Service Corps as typists.
Johnny was a good friend of Jesse Pye – or at least he thought he was. When Luton came in for him after he had drifted to the fringes at Molineux, Walker was advised by his team-mate not to go there and instead look at Southampton. Imagine the surprise when Pye moved to Kenilworth Road shortly afterwards!
Coincidentally, the Scot made his Saints debut against the Hatters, using the 3-1 Second Division home defeat in October, 1952 to score the first of his 52 goals for them. He also netted in the return at Kenilworth Road in the February.
Relegation at the end of that season meant Johnny would spend the rest of his time at The Dell in Division Three (South). By the time he played his 186th and last game for them, in November, 1957, shortly before his 29th birthday, he had a hugely talented youngster in his shadow.
Walker became a mentor to teenage winger Terry Paine and played at inside-forward to him in the reserves.
The man who matured to become a member of England’s 1966 World Cup squad was quickly impressed and told manager Ted Bates so. The following Saturday, they were named side by side in the first team together.
When the news of Johnny’s death was released nearly a month ago, Paine emailed Saints historians to say he could ‘still remember his kindness and help when I first made it in the first team.’ A tribute from Terry is due to be read out at the funeral tomorrow.
John Young Hilley Walker, who included future England man Neil Webb among the players he coached at Reading after the end of his playing career there, was admitted to the Royal Berkshire Hospital on 19 January and died four days later.
We once again send our condolences to his family, to whom we recently posted two copies of the Wolves v West Ham programme as it contained a special Molineux tribute to him. Johnny’s daughters plan to install a commemorative bench in his honour in the Theale area of Reading.