Josh Walker has played in the English Premier League, scored against Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup tie and gone on to shine in the Indian top-flight. So it was quite a coup for Ladbrokes League 2 side Edinburgh City to secure his signature in February 2017.
Having netted the winner away to Cowdenbeath for the Citizens last term, there was only one man for Ladbrokes News to speak to ahead of City’s return to Central Park on Saturday. Here’s Josh’s take on that upcoming clash and much, much more…
Ladbrokes News: City had a few difficult periods last term – first at the start of the campaign, and then in the January/February period. But each time you bounced back with a strong run. What were the key factors in managing to regain form after those tough patches?
Josh Walker: I wasn’t here in the early part of the season, but certainly in terms of bouncing back earlier in 2017, it was mostly a case of belief. Within the squad, we always had the view of ‘we’re good enough to stay up’.
It was difficult because we were losing games even when we felt our performances were good. But even when we didn’t get the rub of the green, we kept doing the same things and knew that eventually, our fortunes would turn. And our persistence – and confidence – paid off.
There’s a very well-knit changing room here at Edinburgh City. The are no ‘big-timers’ or anything like that. It’s just a group of lads who want to do well as individuals, but more importantly, care about the collective. It’s one of the most positive environments I’ve played in.
LN: You scored three vital goals after arriving in February, including a late winner away at Cowdenbeath in a real six-pointer. What do you think your biggest strengths are in attacking areas?
JW: I try to influence the game in any way I can. As one of the experienced heads, that can be as a communicator. But primarily, I look to get on the ball and make things happen for the team – and build those passing moves from the heart of midfield.
I was lucky enough to get a few important goals last season, and I’ll be looking to improve on that this year. I’m hopeful that with six months here behind me and a full season ahead, I can do that – provided I manage to avoid injury.
LN: Last season will definitely go down as a success for the Citizens, with a seventh-placed finish in your first season at this level. Would you be satisfied with another year of stability, or would only a higher finish please you?
JW: I think you always need to look towards progression and what the next step is, but when you consider how far the club have come in such a short space of time, it’s got to be about consolidating this season.
A finish high up the league is a huge ask, but I see no reason we can’t improve on last season’s points tally – and if we can do that, then I think it’ll go down as another successful season.
If we have another good campaign this time out, we can start seriously looking upwards, but for now the main goal is remaining competitive and trying to avoid flirting with relegation.
LN: This season has been hit-and-miss thus far. Victory over Berwick Rangers and an impressive display against Motherwell followed by a pair of disappointing defeats. What have you been pleased by so far, and where do you think improvement is needed?
JW: I think improvement will come when we get more players back. We’ve had a slew of injuries in pre-season, and the club are still looking to bring in a few more players before the window ends. So I think we’re nowhere near the full-strength side which will develop as the campaign goes on.
As a group, we’ve always believed in what the gaffer [Gary Jardine] has set things up at the club and the way in which he wants us to play. We’ve shown – despite the injuries – that we can compete with anyone, on our day. You saw that against Motherwell.
I think the consistency in those performances will come once there are more options available in the side.
LN: Next up for you is a visit to Cowdenbeath on Saturday. This fixture saw two draws and one win apiece last term. How do you think we’ll see City set up at Central Park? And who do you reckon the biggest threats are in that Blue Brazil side?
JW: We’ll approach the game like any other. Tactically, I’m not sure exactly how we’ll line up, but the focus as always is on imposing our style of play on the opposition and winning the game.
Cowdenbeath have been in freefall during the last few years, but they’re starting to halt that. Obviously, they came very near to dropping out of the league altogether last season, but I expect them to be challenging at the other end of the table this time around.
Player-wise, they’ve got a few talented guys, but I don’t tend to worry about who the opposition have in their ranks. The focus here is always in making sure we’re on our game, and if we find our momentum, we’ll take the game to them. I’m looking at it from a perspective of making sure we’re a real threat to their defence.
LN: One big change at Edinburgh City this season is obviously the ground. You guys are at Ainslie Park this year while work is done on Meadowbank Stadium. How are you finding life at the new place? And does it feel like home yet?
JW: It does feel like home for me. Obviously, the team have played at Meadowbank for over 20 years, so it’s probably a big change for the fans and people who’ve worked at the club for a long period.
However, on the playing side, there aren’t too many lads here who’ve been at the club for more than 18 months, so it’s not a big transition for guys like myself who have joined during that time period.
In terms of the pitch, it’s a move from grass to a 3G/4G surface, but a lot of clubs in Scotland do play on the latter – so most of the lads are used to it. From my perspective, artificial pitches were popular in India when I played there [for Indian Super League side Bengaluru].
Provided it gets enough water then the pitches are great to play on – and dry pitches are never an issue with our weather!
LN: Finally, a word on one of the newboys in your ranks – Ashley Grimes. As with yourself, he’s played at a high level south of the border. Three goals in five games for Ashley so far. What do you think he’ll bring to the team over the course of the season?
JW: He adds so much quality in the top part of the pitch. As you say, he’s done well in England, with clubs like Rochdale and Lincoln City, and he’s someone we’re lucky to have at Edinburgh City.
He’s also been a great presence around the club. Ashley gives a lot of encouragement to the younger lads, and is always helping out by giving those boys pointers.
So it’s a great signing, but for Ashley to show his best, he needs the players around him to link up well and give him good-quality service.
If we do that, he’ll definitely keep firing, but we can’t be over-reliant on one player to get the goals. Our other forwards, guys like myself in midfield and the defenders who offer a threat on set-pieces need to chip in and find the net as well.
It’s certainly a move which bodes well for a successful season, and I’m excited to see how it’ll all come together with him in the side.
Edinburgh City are 9/5 to beat Cowdenbeath at Central Park this weekend.
Meanwhile, ambitious fans of the Citizens can back them to lift the Ladbrokes League 2 trophy at odds of 25/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing