Tyler Walker was recalled from his loan spell at Lincoln City right at the end of the January transfer window which caused problems for the Imps.
Walker had been one of Lincoln’s top performers as they made their return to League One following their title win just last season. The loanee had struck 15 goals for the Imps and had been very impressive leading the Lincoln front line, and in the final weeks of his spell had formed a strong partnership with Arsenal loanee Tyreece John-Jules. During the clash with Blackpool, the pair linked up to score the only goal of the game with Walker’s perfectly weighted pass falling into the path of John-Jules who stroked home.
The Nottingham Forest loanee had been pivotal for both Danny Cowley and for Michael Appleton when he took over the role in late September. Cowley had brought him to the club after attempting to sign him the season before, but Forest decided to send him to Mansfield Town. He enjoyed a stellar campaign with the Stags, scoring 22 goals in League Two as they fell just short to MK Dons in the race for an automatic promotion place.
The striker was highly coveted amongst England’s third tier with several clubs wanting to give him a platform to showcase himself on a League One stage. Perhaps where Lincoln had an advantage was not only Cowley and his persistence to bring the player in, but also the fact that one of Walker’s best friends in football had signed for the Imps in the summer of 2019. Jorge Grant spent the last half of the 2018/2019 campaign with Walker and Mansfield also on loan from Forest. But the wide playmaker would make his switch to Sincil Bank permanent, joining for an undisclosed fee.
There was a huge sense of expectation amongst Imps fans before the first clash of the season with Accrington Stanley. They knew they were about to see a centre forward who could terrorise defenders with his movement and his pace. It isn’t very often that Lincoln City go out and sign a striker who had been so successful in the same division as them the year before. Walker didn’t disappoint on debut and helped Lincoln cruise to a 2-0 win.
It wasn’t long before Walker had his name on a Lincoln City scoresheet as he netted a penalty in Lincoln’s 4-0 thrashing of Southend United, from that moment on Lincoln realised that they had a talented player on their hands. Meanwhile, over at Forest, they were soaring to a place in the play-offs but appeared to have the same problem come back to bite them. Lewis Grabban was the first-choice striker at Forest, in fact he still is, but when Grabban wasn’t firing, Forest had nobody to turn to. So, whilst Walker was putting in huge performances for Lincoln, the danger of him returning to his parent club would grow ever higher.
Imps fans were worried heading into the January window for a few reasons. It was the first window that Appleton had to put his stamp on the squad, but it wasn’t who was coming in that was worrying the City fans, it was who was going out. The club had a number of loanees during the first half of the campaign that had performed to an extremely high standard, Joe Morrell’s call up to the senior Wales side for European Qualifiers suggested that.
Morrell and Walker were the names on every Imps fans’ lips. It is common knowledge that when a player signs for a club on a season-long loan, there is often a recall option or period in the contract for the parent club to exercise should they wish. Lincoln had gone through it just the season before with Bradford loanee Shay McCartan. So, when John Akinde left to join Steve Evans at Gillingham, you couldn’t blame Lincoln supporters for believing that Walker was set to see the season out at Sincil Bank.
However, the news that Lincoln City fans didn’t want to hear broke on the 29th of January, with just over 24 hours to go in the window, the Imps had lost their main man. Walker was heading back to Nottingham Forest, leaving Lincoln with just two options up top. Tom Hopper and John-Jules with Anthony Scully to be drafted in from West Ham United after the deadline.
Since his recall to Forest, has it been worth it? Well, when Walker netted in the crucial victory over Leeds United it looked set for him to go on and enjoy a run in the side. However, Sabri Lamouchi has had other ideas with Walker often being used a substitute or not being used at all. The cost of which may yet come back to bite Forest, who are a club who enjoy nurturing their own talents and giving them an opportunity.
Nottingham Forest had every right to recall the player following his impressive run of form in the division below, he has a contract with Forest and therefore he is their player. But what impact could this have on Tyler Walker?
He was enjoying playing 90 minutes each week with Lincoln but is now restricted to just 10 or 15 from the bench each appearance. That sort of change for a player could be drastic as they try and maximise their potential. Walker has the ability to become Forest’s first choice striker for years to come, but should the club win promotion to the Premier League this campaign, and with the money the Premier League attracts, what does the future really hold for the Nottingham Forest front man?