Walker's World

He may have played just 20 times for West Ham United, but Jimmy Walker will forever be loved by the Claret and Blue Army.

The vertically-challenged goalkeeper arrived from Walsall in summer 2004, saving a penalty from Chelsea's Frank Lampard in just his third appearance before suffering a serious knee injury in the Championship Play-Off final victory over Preston North End the following May.

While the injury, plus the arrivals of Shaka Hislop, Roy Carroll and Robert Green, restricted his opportunities under Alan Pardew and Alan Curbishley, Walker never allowed his lack of first-team action to get him down.

Instead, the Nottinghamshire-born goalkeeper established himself as the life and soul of the Hammers dressing room, while his entertaining Programme column 'Walker's World' lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans at Chadwell Heath and the Boleyn Ground.

Now 40 and working as goalkeeper coach at League One club Peterborough United, Walker recently returned to east London to take part in a charity match for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

"I had a fantastic time here!" he confirmed. "Unfortunately, the injuries didn't help matters but the fans remember the big games I played in. They were great to me from the first game I played, right the way through to when I was trying to get back from my knee injury and play games in the Premier League.

"Right the way through my time here, there was always something going on - two Play-Off finals, then I did my knee, came back from that and played in the Prem, then the FA Cup final and then we had the 'Great Escape' at Manchester United with Tevez and all that - so what a fantastic time to be at the Club.

"I was just happy to be around the place and it was a fantastic experience for me. I just wish I had been able to play a few more games and really push for that No1 spot, but with the injury it was difficult. I was here as long as I could be and enjoyed every minute I had here."

While Walsall, where he spent 14 years in two spells as player and coach and made more than 500 appearances, will always be Walker's club, his bond with the Hammers is also strong.

The goalkeeper's five years in east London enabled him to learn all about why West Ham is one of the biggest clubs in the country.

"It's a special place. When I was leaving Walsall I had a couple of options, but we had played here a couple of months before and it just felt like a proper football club with the history and traditions and the 30,000 fans behind the team every week. It just felt like the right move for me.

"I played a couple of games, then had a decent game in a win at Chelsea when I saved a penalty in my first away game, which cemented my relationship with the fans. It all went from there, really.

"The players they have had through the door here are unbelievable. The fans have been treated and they respond to that, then the players respond to the fans."

Those fans will never forget Walker's World, which saw supporters queuing to ensure they did not miss out on their chance to read the next instalment in each Official Programme.

With subject matters covering everything from dressing room banter to players' clothing, there was never a dull moment when Walker was about!

"I loved that, I must admit!" he laughed. "I had permission to go and cane the lads to everyone, whereas I previously had to do it in the changing room with just the lads in there. It was a chance to go and share it with 30 or 40,000 fans as well, which was brilliant.

"It got to the stage, if I remember right, when I'd walk in a room and the lads would be going 'Sssssshhh, he's here!' so I was struggling for material in the end and had to go fishing a little bit but I did all right on it, to be fair."

The star turn in Walker's World was often Ghana full-back John Pantsil, who would arrive for training in traditional and colourful African dress and entertain his team-mates with his infectious personality.

While Pantsil took the banter in good spirits, other players were upset by Walker's public ribbings.

"I remember Johnny Pantsil's African garb, but it wasn't the worst gear around in the changing room," Walker confirmed.

"It was only Kieron Dyer who really got the hump. He went on telly and I said he was wearing a Bugsy Malone suit, which it was, and he was not happy with that at all! The lads took it in good spirits and, in the end Kieron did as well because he didn't have a lot of choice."

These days, the Programme column would likely be replaced by a Walker's World Twitter page - something he himself would have relished back in his playing days.

"It would have been fantastic, but I think I might have got in a bit of trouble on Twitter! I'd have to be a little bit more low-key now."