Monday, 9 August 2010

115 Dean Walling

Position : Forward

Played : 1987-88 to 1989-90

Appearances : 65

Goals : 8

Now we come to a controversial one; Deano polarised opinion like no other player before Joe Thompson (only the small band of devoted Barrow arse-lickers made a case for Mark Bailey so he doesn’t count). Dean was another youngster signed from Leeds in the summer of 1987.

Initially he became a hero through not playing. 1987-88 was the first season where two substitutes were allowed in League games but Eddie Gray was reluctant to use even one so Dean sat on the bench for the first three months of the season with Gray ignoring the growing clamour to bring him on as the team struggled. Eventually the financial crisis forced Gray’s hand and , oh dear, the shine came off very quickly. Dean was a tall lad and usually got his head to the ball but where it went next was completely unpredictable apart from the fact that it wouldn’t be anywhere near his partner’s run. On the ground Dean was just hopeless. His two goals ( with his head) were scored home and away against Newport , his being the last ever League goal at Somerton Park.

The following season he was no better and the arguments raged. The pro-camp always came out with “he tries so hard” which was undeniable but I always think if a young player making his way into the game isn’t trying he shouldn’t be in football at all; that alone isn’t worth a shirt. He improved just enough towards the end of the season, perhaps benefitting from Steve Taylor’s know-how, to survive Terry Dolan’s scorched–earth clearout of the Bergara squad. That meant he lined up in 1989-90 alongside Kevin Stonehouse in probably the worst strike partnership (with the even worse Robbie Wellhans as backup) we’ve ever fielded and the initial home games of that season were like watching paint dry - 0-0 being a regular scoreline. He scored a notable goal to win the game away at table-topping Carlisle when he headed in after coming on as sub. I got some stick from others in the crowd for heckling the decision to bring him on.

Which leads on to the reason I’m grateful to Dean. In February 1990 we played Hartlepool away and conceded a goal early on at the far end. I must admit I didn’t see the initial incident ; either Dean failed to clear or impeded Keith Welch getting to the ball but whatever it was caused the normally ice-cool Welch to run off his line to remonstrate with and shove him. This was the trigger for myself and one or two others to heckle Dean whereupon “the dick” (as mentioned in the Geoff Lomax post) completely lost it and started ranting hysterically at me. One result was that we’ve ignored each other pretty much from that moment on ; the other was that it cemented my friendship with two other hecklers (who actually kept the exchange going much longer than me) who’ve been my match-mates ever since. So cheers for that, Dean !

At the end of that season Dolan had seen enough and sent him on his way. After spending the summer playing for Canada he signed for Guiseley and started banging in the goals so much so that he got a second bite at League football when Carlisle signed him a year later. He struggled once again but someone at Brunton Park had the genius idea of switching him to centre half. Facing the ball and getting stuck in , Dean was an instant success (a few years down the line many would suggest a similar move for Clive Platt) and he became a hero for the Cumbrians , scoring in the 1997 Auto-Windscreens Final. After 6 years he became (and still is I think) Lincoln’s record signing for £75,000 when Chairman-manager Michael Knighton let him go. While at Lincoln he played for St Kitts in two World Cup qualifying matches and helped the Imps win their last promotion. He missed most of the following season through inury then was sold to Doncaster for £25,000 when he was thirty. In 2001 he moved to Northwich but then got another opportunity to return to League football playing 20 games for Cambridge in 2001-02 .He finished his career with spells at Gainsborough and Nuneaton retiring in 2003. He now runs his own Pro-Soccer Academy in Lincolnshire.

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