It’s an obvious transfer rumour, just the same as Michael Bridges and Danny Hylton always used to be. Tyler Walker is a free agent, and that means links to us.
There’s substance here, of course. Walker was targetted by us in 2018/19, only to opt for Mansfield, where he scored plenty of goals. The following season, we bagged him on loan; he scored plenty of goals and was recalled by Nottingham Forest. After his move to Coventry, we were linked again, this time in the winter window of 2021/22, but instead, we opted for John Marquis. I’m told it was close between him and Marquis, and in the end, we signed the latter as he wasn’t a loan player. Walker went to Portsmouth but struggled. Since then, he’s had a mixed time, struggled with injuries, and is now out of contract and looking for a new club.
Could it be us? Where else might we see Tyler Walker move? I’ve put together a few options to fill some reading time on this slow news Monday. I’ve also assessed our chances of signing him as well.
One team who are sure to be looking at Walker are Port Vale. They’ve got David Flitcroft as DoF, a manager who got a tune out of the forward at Mansfield, and that could be a big link. There’s also the fact their top striker, James Wilson, has left the club, so they’re looking for a leading man. If they can afford his wages, which are expected (but not confirmed) to be upwards of £4k per week, then they’re an obvious fit.
Remember, Walker is still only 26, so if he does harbour ambitions to play in the Championship, then his next move must be to a club that builds a team around him. If you provide bullets for Walker, he will score goals. I’d imagine he will want to be in a creative team, fighting at the right end of League One (if he comes to League One), which could also count against Vale who, on last season’s form, could be early candidates for the drop.
Another possible destination is Bristol Rovers. They’re likely to have a few quid to spend, especially if Aaron Collins moves on, as expected. That could put them in a good position for Walker, and they’ve been linked with him before as well. They’ll also be hoping to push up the table, having shown some good form last season, let down by a poor run after New Year, which saw them lose 12 league matches, and seven of their final 11.
There’s little between them and Port Vale in reality, but Rovers are perhaps the ‘bigger’ club of the two, and they’ll be hoping to finish above the Valiants. However, both need a striker, and there’s a reasonable connection to both teams to consider.
I have a feeling that an Oxford United-type team could suit Walker. They’re certainly looking for a goalscoring threat with Matty Taylor leaving the club – they were toothless at ours earlier this year. They’ll have the sort of money that could probably fend off the likes of Port Vale, and despite their brush with relegation this season, they’re also likely to be aiming top ten.
If Walker is on their list, then they’d be among the favourites to take him, I think. The fit is perfect. He’s proven at this level, young enough to still accrue value and (hopefully) fit for 40 games a season. They’re aspiring top ten, can stretch to a better wage, and need a starting striker who will get lots of opportunities in the first team.
The final team in our league I’d identify as a possible destination are Bolton. Make no mistake – they’re going to be looking at the top two this season, and have all the qualities to ensure they get there. They have a good manager, even if not a likeable one, and they create chances going forward. They’ve released Ellis Kachunga, so will be looking for a fresh face, and they play two up top, so could pair Walker with Dion Charles for maximum effect. He’s been there before and could see them as a way to the Championship if he pens a two-year deal.
My reservation, from his point of view, would be guaranteed game time. Bolton will carry three or four strikers, all of whom would likely walk into a bottom-half side, and it is easier to find yourself benched in that situation. The middle ground, someone like Oxford, seems better for the player in terms of game time.
Heart of Midlothian
This one might seem a bit out of left field, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Firstly, Jorge Grant is up there, which would be a huge attraction for Tyler. Secondly, he’d be playing top-flight football, against the likes of Celtic and Rangers, and the rest of the division is, at best, lower-end Championship or League One standard. Finally, they’re in Europe, the Conference League, but could have a run there, boosting his profile even more.
Players can head up there and be a success when they might struggle in the likes of QPR’s team. Look at Josh Ginnelly (Hearts attacker), for instance. Also, if Walker goes up there, scores 20 goals and helps Hearts back into Europe, he could either be a hero or secure a move back down to the Championship for another crack at our third tier.
If there’s a desire from another decent Scottish club, Hibs or Aberdeen perhaps, they could also suit his career needs right now.
We’re on this list, not because I rate us as a more likely destination than the others, but because I want to explain why I don’t see us being in for him right now.
Two words, basically. Ben House.
We play a 3-4-3, which is essentially more like a 5-2-3, which Keith used to play. It’s two midfielders, two wide attackers, and two full-backs. That means one central striker, and right now, that’s Ben House. I’ve seen plenty of narrative around us needing to sign a goalscorer, but I cannot see us breaking the bank to bring in a player who might not start 75% of our matches. Any striker we sign will fall into that category because we’ll be giving Ben House as much exposure as we can. Our spend, in my opinion, will be in the central midfield area, and out wide, both full backs and wingers, or wide forwards. Walker could fall into the latter, but would he be a better option in terms of creating than, say, Mide Shodipo? I’m not so sure.
I’d love us to sign Walker, and maybe if we’re going towards a 3-5-2, it’s more likely. We were linked with Stockton, and whilst I understand that isn’t something we’re currently pursuing, it does suggest we might have been eyeing a second starting striker, or we anticipated a bid for House. Given House’s appearance on the recent kit launch, I think we’re now planning to have him as our starting striker, and that diminishes the chances of us being in for Walker.
Of course, there are reasons we might sign him – we clearly had an interest 18 months ago that has been confirmed to me by a club insider, so he’s remained on our radar. Lincoln is almost as close to ‘home’ as he can get, and he was clearly loved here. After a rough time at Coventry, he might want to go somewhere where there’s an existing relationship with supporters. Remember TJ Eyoma’s return, the hero’s welcome he got on the pitch against Bolton? I suspect that was a factor in him coming to us, and it could swing Walker’s mind if we’re in for him.
Gut feeling? Be prepared to see him pen a deal with a club much like us, Bristol Rovers or Oxford, and likely score in both matches!