Walton back to save the day!

Christian Walton
Christian Walton

Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook admits the welcome return of Christian Walton – who will face Fleetwood this weekend after three months out with a broken leg – could not have been any more timely .

No sooner had Walton put his hand up for selection, Jamie Jones – a more-than-able deputy in recent months – damaged shoulder ligaments in a training-ground mishap, ruling him out until 2018.

“It was going to be a headache, but it’s not any more, because Jamie is going to be out for a few weeks!” acknowledged Cook.

“Obviously now I’m going to tell everyone I was going to pick Christian anyway, so it’s worked out very well!

“Hand on heart, I think Jamie would have played.

“It would have been too much of a decision to bring Christian straight back in.

“I think Jamie had earned that right to stay in the team.

“Obviously it’s easy for me to say that, because there’s no decision to make now.

“But the reality is Jamie would have stayed in.”

Not that being able to call on England Under-21 stopper Walton – on a season-long loan from Premier League Brighton – is much of a hardship.

“It’s great for us as a team, and for Christian with him coming back into the team, because he’s an outstanding goalkeeper,” Cook enthused.

“But it’s also disappointing for Jamie because he’s been outstanding, and overseen a period of caretakership of the goalkeeping position.

“To say we haven’t missed Christian would be the biggest compliment I could pay Jamie.

“With him in goal we’ve climbed to the top of the league having conceded fewer goals than anyone in the division.

“Part of the reason for that is we’ve had an outstanding goalkeeper in nets.

“We’re all gutted for Jamie, but it’s all part and parcel of the season that changes will happen, quite naturally.”

Cook also revealed he would have been happy to have gone with Wales Under-21 goalkeeper Owen Evans, who has sat on the bench for most of the season as back-up, had the injuries to Walton and Jones overlapped.

“We’d have played Owen, without a shadow of a doubt,” the Latics boss revealed.

“If you’re at a club, on the bench, you’re ready to play.

“For young lads, there’s always the question of when to throw them in. As far as I’m concerned, you have to play people, and I wouldn’t have had a problem with that.”