The Jon Walters era at Stoke City is coming to a close.
‘SJW’ as he is affectionately known in The Potteries, is on the verge of joining Burnley’s Irish takeover on a two-year deal.
The 33-year-old is one of Stoke’s most popular players in recent years, but will leave Mark Hughes’ side on excellent terms with the club and its fans.
David Cowlishaw is a Stoke City fan, and a co-presenter of the Stoke-centric podcast, The Wizards of Drivel. He told Balls.ie that the striker has surpassed all expectations with the club.
He first joined us in our third season in the Premier League. He was the archetypal Tony Pulis signing. He was a big pain-in-the-arse striker. To be honest, we weren’t expecting more from him than being a nuisance.
What took us by surprise was that he actually had quite a lot of ability on the ball. When you combined that with his workrate and tenacity - that is the kind of stuff that fans of the likes of Stoke fall in love with straight away.
In his first season, we reached the FA Cup Final by beating Bolton 5-0 in the Semis. He scored one of the best goals I think the new Wembley has ever seen. He cut inside and scored a 30-yard screamer. He scored two in that game as well.
Walters had all the attributes you wanted from a Stoke player. He had all the Tony Pulis qualities. It’s hard not to love him. He’s our top Premier League scorer of all time.
With 62 goals to his name in Stoke colours, including a record 43 in the Premier League, Walters impressed under Pulis and Mark Hughes, despite the two managers bringing different styles to the club.
Mark Hughes helped develop Walters as we moved away from the ‘Route One’ style. He still found a place in the team, whether it was on the wing or upfront.
Under Pulis he was undroppable. He seemed to be indestructible. He could get knocked about my multiple centre-halves and still play on. There’s multiple images of him bandaged up, blood gushing and he always played on.
Signed from Ipswich for an initial £2.75million, he is expected to move to Turf Moor for a profit, costing Burnley £3million.
Selling a 33-year-old for a profit is a nice piece of business from Hughes, but Cowlishaw added the price only tells a fraction of the story.
Even if he went for nothing, the fans wouldn’t have had any problems. He suits Burnley’s system well. It’s a fitting way for him to go and it suits both parties.
When we signed him, I had my doubts. He was a Championship striker. Ipswich were willing to sell him. I wasn’t really that enthused by the signing but bloody hell he proved us wrong!
We’ve brought in players like [Xherdan] Shaqiri, [Marko] Arnautovic and Bojan [Krkic] but Walters has still been there as a constant. It’s nice to have players like Walters in there who are grafters, along with the continental flair as well.
While Walters prepares to leave Stoke with 269 appearances to his name, his time at the club will be remembered fondly by the fans.
When asked if Walters would be remembered as an important player in the modern history of the club, Cowlishaw was adamant he would be.
Absolutely! We’ve been blessed in recent years. There’s a number of players in the years to come who may be regarded as legends but definitely as heroes. Players like Walters, Rory Delap, Ryan Shawcross, Whelan and Ricardo Fuller are in that category.
There will not be a Stoke fan who won’t be massively thankful for everything he’s done. He’s impossible to dislike really.
Despite being the club’s leading Premier League goalscorer of all time, Walters will be best remembered for his first goal in that FA Cup match against Bolton.
The first of his two goals against Bolton in Wembley put us 4-0 up. I’d never seen Stoke in a Semi-Final before, let alone win one. When he scored that goal we went absolutely insane. I think I turned to my dad and said; ‘I love football’. It just didn’t make sense. I don’t think you can top that goal.
The departure of Walters from Stoke, means that only two Irish players will remain on the club’s books. The era of Irish players at the club which previously included the likes of Delap and Marc Wilson could soon be coming to an end in the coming months.
Glenn Whelan, is another player like Walters who has been massively important for us. It appears like he will be moved on this summer. Stephen Ireland has been given a six-month contract. That’s because he broke his leg last season. The contract was given to help him find a new club. It does appear we are letting our Irish contingent go.
At least for the Stoke's fans, they will always have their memories of Walters from that day at Wembley.