England Under-21 prospect joins on season-long loan
Luton Town are delighted to announce the signing of young England goalkeeper Christian Walton on a season-long loan from Brighton & Hove Albion.
The 20-year-old keeper has 12 caps for the national age group teams, with four coming at Under-19 level and eight for the Under-20s before he became a regular member of Gareth Southgate’s Under-21 squad last season.
Truro-born Walton began his career at Plymouth Argyle and Brighton signed him as a 17-year-old, with Hatters manager Nathan Jones working with the young Cornishman throughout his first three years at the Championship club in his role as Seagulls’ coach.
Thrilled to have persuaded one of the country’s hottest goalkeeping prospects to come to Kenilworth Road for a year in Sky Bet League Two, Jones told lutontown.co.uk: “I am delighted to have signed a player of Christian’s quality and pedigree.
“I worked close to him at Brighton and I know he has the potential to be a top keeper. It is a real coup for us as he had many options, but he's chosen us as he believes in what we do.
“I’d like to thank Brighton for their co-operation and desire to get this deal done. We feel we've added real quality this summer, and Christian is another hand-picked piece in our jigsaw.”
Walton joined Plymouth – the Hatters’ opening day opponents – at the age of ten and featured in the first team three days after his 16th birthday, with a place on the substitutes’ bench for an FA Cup first round tie against Stourbridge in November 2011.
In February 2013, Brighton signed him on a three-year deal and just over a year later, Walton had made his debut for England’s Under-19s.
The Championship side soon tied their promising 6ft 5ins keeper to a four-year contract in the summer of 2014, and he was picked by Aidy Boothroyd for the first England Under-20 fixture of the new season, keeping a clean sheet in a 6-0 win over Romania watched by full national boss Roy Hodgson.
The following month, the 18-year-old made his professional debut in a Capital One Cup tie at Tottenham Hotspur and impressed while deputising for the injured David Stockdale in a 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane, then in Championship games against Blackburn and Wigan.
He made one more second-tier start on the final day of that 2014-15 season, keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw at Middlesbrough, before Albion manager Chris Hughton sent him out on a season-long loan to League One Bury last summer.
However, he made only six league and cup appearances for the Shakers before a groin injury forced him to pull out of his first call-up to the England Under-21 squad and end his loan early to return to Sussex.
Once fit, Hughton allowed Walton to return to Plymouth in November to cover for injured number one Luke McCormick. He made four appearances and was on the bench for another four matches before returning to the AMEX Stadium in early January at the end of his two-month loan.
Albion boss Hughton told the Seagulls’ official website: "Christian is an excellent young goalkeeper and this move is a great chance for him to go and play senior football - under a manager he knows well. It's a move which is a good one for all parties involved.
"Christian wants to play week in, week out, in order to continue his development, and it’s something he needs at his age, but with the goalkeepers we have at the club, it's not something we can offer him in the coming season.
"However, we know Christian has all the attributes to become a top goalkeeper and a season playing under Nathan's watch at Luton will serve him well and help him to continue to progress."
Speaking to lutontown.co.uk after undergoing his medical and signing at Kenilworth Road this morning, Walton said: “My good friend Glen Rea was here on loan last season and he spoke highly of the club and Nathan’s enthusiasm for the game, which I know all about.
“When I found out about Luton’s interest in me, I was more than happy to sign and continue learning my trade as a goalkeeper under Nathan’s guidance.”
*Hear more from Christian on his signing and see him modelling the new season’s goalkeeper’s kit on the official website later today