Jack Walton’s first 22 league games for Barnsley were under five different coaches and he is now enjoying playing under ‘really nice guy’ Valerien Ismael.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper is the longest serving player in the first team squad, having joined the Reds as a 15-year-old before being named on the bench by Lee Johnson and Paul Heckingbottom.
He was given a surprise debut by Jose Morais at Nottingham Forest in 2018 then used sparingly by Daniel Stendel before Gerhard Struber made him first choice after the lockdown last summer. He was also selected by caretaker Adam Murray and now new head coach Ismael.
Walton told the Chronicle: “It’s helped me to be around the first team since I was 15 or 16. It has been a great experience to learn off older players and each coach brings their own style and philosophy so I have learned off every one of them.
“As a player you just get on with it. Managers changing is part of football, you just have to keep doing your job.”
Ismael has won three of his first four matches, with Walton keeping clean sheets in all three victories. That leaves the Reds – who did not win any of their first seven – six points clear of the bottom three which they escaped in the final seconds of last season. Walton said: “He’s been very good. He’s taken charge of four games in a very short space of time so we haven’t had much time in training with him. But he seems a really nice guy and you can see his philosophy already in the games we have played.
“It was really important to finish with a win at Derby before the international break. We were disappointed with the points we got from the first seven games but we thought we were playing well.
“We believed it would change and the wins would come.
“There is only a quarter of the season gone and we just need to carry on our good form and get as many points as possible then see where we end up. We have high aspirations to kick on from last season. We know the talent is there and we have a really good group of lads.”
Walton made a mistake for Stoke City’s second equaliser in a 2-2 draw last month but has since produced a series of impressive displays. He said: “As a goalkeeper, if you make an error it normally leads to a goal. I was disappointed at Stoke because no player wants to make a costly mistake. But I moved on to Millwall three days later and felt I did really well then I have kept three clean sheets in four.
“Overall I have done well and, as a team, we have been solid. We have had six clean sheets already which is a good start but we want to carry that on.”
Barnsley’s next game is against Forest, the club that Walton made his debut against in a 3-0 away loss. He said: “It was disappointing to lose but it was a great place to make my debut, a month after I had played for Stalybridge on loan against Warrington in front of 300 people.
“I had a good game. I’ve grown a lot since then as a player and a person.
“I am much more developed in my game and my mental and physical side.”
Walton was third choice goalkeeper at the start of 2020 but ended a 15-month wait for first team action in the summer and is now the Reds’ number one.
“It’s been a very strange year and not a nice one with the pandemic. But it has been a good year for my career. I feel I have taken the next step to cement that number one spot. We had the high of staying up and now it’s about building on that and finishing as high as possible.”