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Spotlight: Pat Walker, Irishman done good in Scandanavia

21 September 2010 6,099 views No Comment Written by Michael

The name Pat Walker might not mean much to many an Irish fan, but he has become a household name to football followers in both Sweden and Norway in recent years. Carlow born Walker made the move to Sweden in 1983 and has never looked back since.

Walker’s playing career was quite uneventful. From 1977 until 1982 he played 51 games for Gillingham in the old Division 3. Having never quite made the grade in England, Walker returned to Ireland, joining Bohemians. His stay in Dublin was quite short despite playing in the 1983 FAI Cup final. Walker was offered the chance to move to Gotenburg and play for BK Häcken. This was an opportunity Walker could simply not turn down.

Walker spent 10 years playing in the top two divisions in Sweden, moving from BK Häcken to GIF Sundsvall 4 years through. Towards the end of his career, Walker had some serious thinking to do over what to do with his life. He cam to the conclusion that he wanted to stay involved in the game he loved, so he focused on earning his coaching badges.

Walkers big breakthrough came when he was given the opportunity to manage Kalmar FF, a well respected Swedish team who now play in the top league in Sweden. Walker was instrumental in preparing Kalmar for life in the top division, bringing them to the playoffs of the second division on one occasion. Walker then moved on to have managing spell at GIF Sundsvall before joining Örebro. It was at Örebro where Walker enjoyed one of his greatest achievements thus far.

In October of 2006, Walker guided Orebro SK to promotion to the top tier of Swedish football. It was a remarkable feat considering the club had been relegated from the top league only two years previous for financial irregularities, something which left the club in deep turmoil.

Walker explained that “The club was in a historical crisis and I was basically given the job with very little expected of me. I had to go in and do a Braveheart thing really. Everyone was at each other’s throats and I told them that we should unite and fight together. We weren’t going to go down without a fight.

“We managed to steer things around and were back up within two years. There is a great passion in the town now and a real interest in the team.”

Walkers impressive CV does not end there. In 2004 he guided a development Swedish U21 team to second in the international Toulon tournament, beating China and Portugal along the way. They ended up losing to France in the final, with former Arsenal and Celtic striker Jermaine Aliadiere getting the winner. Soon after this tournament he was offered the attractive job of being a coach at Norwegian giants Rosenborg. Walker turned the opportunity down.

Walker currently finds himself as manager of Tippeligaen (Norwegian League) side Sandefjord. Again Walker took over a side that had just been relegated. As soon as Walker joined, the team’s performances improved, and he moved the team from a relegation place to a promotion place in the table in eight games. Last season Walker guided Sandefjord to eight place, their strongest performance in Tippeligaen to date. Unfortunately Sandefjord are struggling to find form this season, and they currently sit bottom of the league, quite a distance from safety.

During his time in Sweden, Walker became a household name as a result of being a pundit for their version of Match of the Day. Walker settled very well into Scandanavian life, and has now lived there 27 years, yet he refuses to rule out the prospect of ever coming back to these shores. “I’d never close the door on coming back but I thought that the offers I did receive didn’t really suit me”.

Interestingly, Walker’s two sons, Kevin and Robert, are making strides in the game in Sweden. Kevin currently plies his trade for AIK Fotboll while his older brother Robert plays for Jönköpings Södra IF. Rather disappointingly for Irish fans, both players have expressed their desire to play for Sweden rather than their fathers home country. Ironically Kevin’s first game as captain of the Sweden under 21s was against Ireland.

Walker has stated in the past that he has been offered the chance to manage in the Championship. For the moment however he is more focussed on trying to resurrect Sandefjord’s season. If ever there was a prime example to prove that the Irish can be a success outside of the FAI and FA’s remit, then Walker is it. This is one Carlow man who has certainly done good. As a fellow Carlovian, I ave nothing but respect for what he has achieved.

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