Our Branch / Photos City History TV: City In Action City Interviews
Quiz Book / frontiers DRUNK In York Private Vice Presidents Club
City Books / Fanzines Bootham Crescent Southern Connections RENEW Membership

City History

Colin Walker

He almost snook in under the radar at York, appointed as part of Billy McEwan’s back room staff in early 2005.

Previously, he’d had spells as a coach at Barnsley and at Leeds United's academy, Walker found himself scratching around to make a living, scouting at clubs like Northampton and "trying to earn enough to pay the mortgage".

On November 19th 2007, he was appointed City’s caretaker manager on the dismissal of McEwan. Results went his way, he become full time manager on December 26th 2007, thus completing a circle which had started during the Wilf McGuinness era. He had played briefly for City as a triallist striker.

As a South Yorkshire schoolboy, football scouts rated him a better prospect than George Best. In 1970, 15 clubs, including Manchester United, Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur, were vying to sign Walker, described in a BBC documentary as “a prize exhibit in the magic roundabout of children’s football”. All the big clubs hosted Walker and his parents, hoping he would sign schoolboy terms. “I was taken to Old Trafford and could hear the manager [Tommy Docherty] giving a player a rollicking. The player came out of the dressing room, and that was George Best. I went in to see the manager and he said, 'don't worry about getting to the training now, Colin, I've got you a lift'”, recalled Walker. Best drove young Colin to The Cliff in his E-type Jaguar. “When he got to the ground, there were about a hundred women trying to get hold of him; it was carnage, but it was a fantastic experience. I played in a five-a-side team with Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, me and [Manchester United goalkeeper] Alex Stepney. It was only for five minutes, but that was probably the best five minutes of my life. It was the club's way of trying to get me to sign for them. ’’ Walker and his parents were reluctant to commit to any club at such a young age, so he waited and waited. “When I was 15, nobody wanted me. I didn't grow, I stayed really tiny.” On leaving school he worked as a binman and steelworker and joined Barnsley as a part-time youth player, but bad luck and two broken legs scuppered his dream of turning pro.

His playing career, in England, centred around South Yorkshire. He was a member of the Doncaster side which challenged City in the mid 1980s and were runners up to us in our glorious 1983/4 Division 4 Championship side season. He also appeared for Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley.

However, it was in New Zealand that he made a name for himself as a player. With his playing career in the doldrums in 1980, he went to New Zealand in order to get time on the pitch. He said, "I was at a low ebb and someone knocked on my door and asked if I wanted nine months in New Zealand. I was unemployed, I was playing for Matlock Town and I took it. There were no wages but the opportunity to fly half-way round the world was too good to miss. There were seven stop-overs on the flight. It took 46 hours to get there. It took three weeks to get over the jet lag. I can always remember my first training session, I couldn't walk, let alone run, my legs were so full of jelly from the jet-lag. I had such a fantastic time. I was the leading scorer in the national league that year and I had all the intentions of going back for 1981 but I came to England, I had friends at Barnsley and I played in their reserves. Norman Hunter was the manager. I played four games and scored four goals and he offered me a professional contract, which is what I always wanted".

Walker's Oakwell sojourn lasted three years and, in a superb six month stint, he netted 13 times in 18 games. His first full match for the club came on the biggest stage, a League Cup quarter-final at Anfield where Barnsley secured a 0-0 draw. He scored past Bruce Grobbelaar in the replay, but Barnsley went down 3-1. "I think there was a run where we won six times 1-0 and I scored all the goals. I got another year, but the manager decided to play a different way which didn't suit me. I went to play for Doncaster on loan, for Billy Bremner, who wanted me to stay because I got five goals in 12 for them but the team got relegated and (in 1983) we were offered the chance to emigrate and we took the plunge.

It led to an international career back in New Zealand where Walker scored 18 times in 34 appearances while continuing to play club football at Gisborne City following New Zealand naturalisation. He won New Zealand's golden boot in three of his five seasons for the Kiwi nation and was also named the country's player of the year in 1984. His international highlight came against Brazil, where he was marked by a young Aldair, in a week when he faced Brazil 4 times. “I wanted to swap shirts with him (Aldair), but he wasn’t keen, so to even it up I had to trade two tracksuits and two pairs of boots”.

One highlight of his time in NZ is his wonder goal in the All Whites 3-1 win over Israel (featuring the Liverpool players Avi Cohen and Ronnie Rosenthal plus Boni Ginzburg (Rangers’ keeper)).

Back in England, his playing career also took in spells at Cambridge, Sheffield Wednesday, Darlington and Torquay United. "Have boots, will travel", Walker joked.

In the coaching sphere, he learned his trade in a variety of roles at Barnsley and was at Leeds United's academy for one season.

It was early 2005 when Billy McEwan offered him a full time coaching poistion at York. Despite both he and McEwan spending much time in South Yorkshire in ther 1980s, Walker says, "It is quite weird how it has worked out. I was out of football altogether and Billy, I don't know where he picked my name up from, rang me and asked me if I wanted to work with him. I came to talk to him, ended up coming here and have been mainly working with the reserves. I've learned ever such a lot from him and hopefully I will use some of it in my opportunity to be a manager".

On the sacking of McEwan, Walker was appointed caretaker manager on November 19 2007. After an unbeaten run of 5 wins and a draw he became full time manager on December 26. It wasn’t until his 14th game in charge that he tasted defeat (and that was a penalty shoot out). In that first season, City reached The FA Trophy semi finals, only to put up a disappointing perfromance in losing against against Torquay.

The team struggled badly in the following season. He was sacked on November 2008.

Speaking in early 2022, he noted, "Unfortunately, the manager that employed me got sacked, and I became caretaker and then I got offered the manager's job in 2008. I was in charge for one year, but I shouldn't have done it, if I'm being completely honest. It's the best job at the club, I thought I could do it, with my experience, but when you look at how many areas you have to work in, media, players, staff, I'd never been trained for it.''

Whilst many look back on McEwan’s term as turning the club around and providing stability, despite the amazing start to his managerial career, Walker is not held in such esteem.

Home City History Email Us