A United star of the late 70s/early 80s, Nigel Walker was a skillful local talent who almost certainly didn’t realise the full potential of his talent. Sadly, the ex-Newcastle player died two weeks ago at the criminally young age of 54 having suffered from cancer. Ian grew up only a free-kick’s distance away and remembers the Nigel Walker of that era.
I didn’t know Nigel Walker as a pal, but he was raised in the street next to mine. I walked past his house to get to the bus stop to take me to town.
He went to Dunston Hill primary because at that time the schools in Whickham were full. He was picked for the Blaydon District side and our school ran a bus to go and watch one of their games. My first ever away trip!! I don’t remember the result but there wasn’t a follow-up so we must have lost.
At the time I didn’t know it wasn’t just a girl’s school
In my teens Whickham Park had a “hundred-a-side” type kick-around every Sunday afternoon. The only person I ever saw turned down for a game was Nigel, as we were all too scared we’d never get a touch once he had the ball.
He joined Whickham juniors (U-18), when most kids joined Redhuegh juniors. When there wasn’t a match on at Newcastle I always went to watch Whickham. He was very good, although not quite as good as Ray Hudson had been a few years earlier.
The Whickham team was decent but Nigel was the Whickham side, and in games between the two Redheugh were good enough to keep him under control and win.
That he went to Newcastle was great. As has been mentioned elsewhere he had lovely skill but was missing something, maybe aggression?
I went off to uni, to Loughborough, which was always a sports university (except for its geeky engineers!) and was very much the place for students to play rugby. In the hall I was in, one of the highlights was being around seemingly “normal” people who were national level players at colts age group. In one chat a guy from Hull who had played for Yorkshire, in passing, mentioned that the best rugby player he had ever played against was a stand-off from “Northumberland”, Nigel Walker.
In autumn 1981 Newcastle reserves were playing at Forest, with a two o’clock kick-off, and sunlun were playing at Notts County at 3 (in top division). I took my pals to the reserve game till half time and then we walked around to the sunlun game. This allowed me to see Walker, and then see sunlun, with Ally McCoist in their team, lose badly.
Nigel was an athlete, had awareness, but always seemed to not be driven to be better. If I had to say what he reminded me of it was that Italian role where you stand waiting for the ball to be delivered to you, then you changed your body shape and played some lovely weighted pass for a colleague. NUFC in the late 70s wasn’t like that.