This article is part of Football League World’s ‘What does the future hold?’ series, this content strand is where we evaluate and subjectively debate a player’s future at their current club…
In all honesty, it is becoming harder to see Christian Walton remaining at Blackburn Rovers beyond the end of the current campaign.
That, however, is not because Rovers are unlikely to want to see the 24-year-old goalkeeper back between the posts at Ewood Park on a regular basis next season.
Despite a shaky start to his time at the club following a season-long loan move from Brighton back in the summer transfer window, that saw him make some costly errors, Walton has gradually become a more reliable and effective figure for Tony Mowbray’s side, even coming up with a number of vital saves to make up for those mistakes from earlier in the campaign.
Indeed, with Walton an ever-present so far in the league this season, the 45 goals Blackburn have conceded in their 37 Championship games this season is 11 fewer than they had shipped at this stage of the previous campaign.
But while that is something that would surely tempt Rovers to enquire about the possibility of bringing Walton back to Ewood Park, it seems they are not the only ones that the 24-year-old is attracting attention from.
According to recent reports, a number of Premier League sides are starting to take an interest in Walton thanks to the quality of his performances for Blackburn, while parent club Brighton are also said to be keen to retain his services.
Consequentially, it is hard to Blackburn retaining his services if they do not win promotion to the Premier League – they are currently tenth in the Championship table, three points off the play-offs – given the chance to play in the top-flight is one Walton will be desperate to take, having never done that before in his career.
But while his future with Blackburn looks to be fairly clear, it seems there is also plenty to consider with regards to what the future may hold for Walton back at Brighton.
When he returns to the AMEX Stadium in the summer, Walton will be entering the final year of his contract with the Seagulls, which may put pressure on them when it comes to any offers that may come in for the ‘keeper to avoid losing him for free in just over 12 months time, despite the fact that they seemingly want to keep him.
Having spent the vast majority of his career out on loan, Walton may want the guarantee of finally getting a chance to establish himself as number one at Brighton before he agrees to sign a new deal, although given the grip Matthew Ryan – who has two years remaining on his contract with the club – currently appears to have on the gloves at the AMEX, it could be hard for Brighton to give Walton those assurances.
Then, of course, there is the issue of just what level Brighton themselves will be playing at next season.
With Graham Potter’s side still far from safe from relegation this season, you feel it would be even harder for them to fend off top-flight interest in Walton were they to drop into the Championship, due to both the player’s ambitions, and the financial void dropping out of the Premier League would leave them needing to fill.
On the flip side to that, relegation to the Championship could see some Premier League sides instead elect to move for Ryan himself, given he has already proven his ability to play in the top-flight, which could then hand Walton the opportunity to claim the number one spot at the club, which he may be willing to settle for if he feels they have a chance of a quick return to the top-flight.
It seems, therefore, that whatever happens between now and the end of the season at both Blackburn and Brighton, there is still much to be decided in the final stages of the season that could yet have an influence on Walton’s destination beyond the summer, meaning he could well be one worth watching over the coming weeks and months.