Ministry of Goals: Claudia Walker works her magic

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Claudia Walker is a massive Harry Potter fan and this season she has worked her magic to rediscover her fantastic goalscoring form.

Scoring six goals in seven games is spellbinding by anyone’s standards. For Walker, this revival of form has been a long time coming. Life on the pitch wasn’t quite so rosy for the forward when she first joined Birmingham in January 2019.

In her initial loan spell at the Blues, Walker started just four games and she only played 90 minutes in a lone match. Typically, Walker was either substituted or brought on as a substitute, usually swapping places with Emma Follis.

Given her limited game time, it wasn’t a massive surprise that Walker struggled to find the net. But it could be argued that she was being played out of position. This is maybe understandable when you’ve got Ellen White returning back from her injury. 

However, the Birmingham coaching staff must have still been impressed with what they saw. In June 2019, Walker was offered a two-year contract with the Blues.

A bleak outlook

In the fateful and prematurely terminated season of 2019/20, Walker made 19 league and cup appearances. She did not score but let’s be honest here, neither did many of the other Birmingham players.

Blues were lucky to avoid relegation after scoring a grand total of only five goals in their 13 WSL matches. Head Coach Marta Tejedor was given her marching orders and the outlook for Birmingham City Women was bleak.

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Walker was part of a very small group of players that maintained their fitness through The Elite Football Academy. Lockdown was extremely hard for everyone but enormous credit to the Elite coach in dedicating so much time to work with Walker and her teammates Sarah Mayling and Connie Scofield.

The summer was an agonising time especially as the players must have wondered if they’d even have a football club to return to. Like other clubs in the WSL, the Blues depend so much on the financial support of the men’s club.

Ward delivers the Amortentia

Once it was known that the Birmingham City men’s team would maintain their Championship status, Blues Women finally recruited head coach Carla Ward.

When Ward took the job, one of the first things she did was have one-to-one meetings with each of the players. Get to know them, ask them how they feel, find out what makes them tick.

Ward explained that with Walker, she just needed someone to put an arm around her and show her some love.

Indeed, the striker suddenly found form again. Just two games into the new season and Walker scored her first goal for the club in the 5-2 defeat to Manchester United. Her confidence had been given a boost of course but what more had changed?

Just like Harry Potter looks up to his mentor Albus Dumbledore, Walker shows a similar level of respect towards Carla Ward. Walker was now believing in herself again.

This girl is on fire

This self-belief and hard work is starting to pay off for Walker. At one stage in November, she was the third highest goalscorer in the WSL.

Can a case be made that this current run of form for Walker is nothing new? Ward has undoubtedly given the forward a newly found belief which has enabled her to express herself with such confidence again.

But it can be argued that she has always had this goalscoring prowess within her.

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In 2016, Walker was Everton’s top scorer. In 2017, Walker helped the Toffees win the WSL 2 Spring Series and netted an impressive seven times in nine games. How many other strikers can boast this kind of record?

Prior to joining Everton, Walker played for rivals Liverpool. She played for their Academy team as well as being part of the squad that won the WSL title in 2014.

England call-up on the cards

If Walker carries on this rich vein of form, you would hope that an England call-up can’t be too far away. She has played for England U17s, U19s and the U23s for her national team. At the age of 24, Walker is in her prime.

Interim senior England manager Hege Riise recently called up Bristol City striker Ebony Salmon. This shows, unlike her predecessor Phil Neville, she will pick players based on form. Even if they do play for an unfashionable club like Bristol or Birmingham.

If Walker continues her form through 2021 then surely a senior England call-up is on the cards sooner than later. No card tricks or illusions will be necessary – her magic will be on the field.

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