Cult hero Michael Walsh: OVF’s cult heroes section enters the modern age with our cult profile of Michael Walsh – one of the unluckiest players to appear for Port Vale in recent years.
Name: Michael Walsh
Cult credentials: Composed defender, astute Rudge signing, never fulfilled potential
Time at Vale: 1998 to 2007
Cult hero Michael Walsh – the lower league’s Ledley King
By Rob Fielding
To continue a popular Vale-Spurs analogy… if Ray Walker was the lower leagues’ Glenn Hoddle then Michael Walsh could be considered the lower leagues’ Ledley King.
Despite his Vale career being hampered by injury on many occasions, Walsh at his peak was one of the finest defenders around and was once being considered as Vale’s first-ever England U21 selection.
Walsh was (surprise, surprise) another of John Rudge’s astute signings. Virtually no-one had heard of the Scunthorpe when Rudge swooped to sign him. But he’d made his debut for United at 17 and three years later, he’d clocked up over 100 appearances for the side.
A tribunal set the transfer fee at £100,000 which initially seemed quite steep for an untried 20 year-old. But once again, any Rudge doubters were to be proven wrong.
In an impressive first season, Walsh was reportedly sounded out for an England U21 cap but sadly injury intervened and it was to become a familiar story.
Over his nine season spell with Vale, Walsh managed just 173 league appearances – an average of 19 (or less than half the league games) a season. It wasn’t his fault as a catalogue of injuries struck – abdominal, back, ankle, you name it, Walsh probably suffered it. In 2004, he even suffered a neck injury in a clash with Barnsley’s Chris Shuker – probably one of the least physical players around (and ironically now a Vale player).
Despite all this, a fit Walsh was a definite asset to the side. I vividly remember him playing in 2006. He was barely fit and jogged through the game. But Walsh’s positional sense, well-judged tackles and ability to read the game made him arguably Vale’s most composed central defender since Dean Glover.
The potential was undoubtedly there, but sadly Vale fans would never see it fulfilled. After nine seasons and on the brink of a testimonial, Walsh was released from the club and after a brief spell in non-league he retired from the game. He is now a qualified gas fitter.
And sadly for Walsh his epitaph at Vale will probably be – just how good could he have been if it hadn’t have been for those injuries…