Shrewsbury Town midfielder Brad Walker ‘a different man’
Shrewsbury Town midfielder Brad Walker believes he has returned from the coronavirus lockdown 'a different person'.
The 25-year-old midfielder, who shone on the opening day draw at Portsmouth, insists the time away from training and matches was the best of his life as it enabled him to get into top condition and enjoy family time.
Walker has taken advantage of injuries to midfield colleagues Dave Edwards and Sean Goss to force his way into Sam Ricketts' thoughts for the coming campaign after performing well at Middlesbrough and Pompey.
"I'd say it was the best five months of my life, honestly," Walker said of the time away from football.
"I worked as hard as I could, gym, running, to get in the best shape possible coming back.
"And then spent time with my family and the kids which was the best thing.
"One hundred per cent, I feel a different person."
Walker, who played under boss Ricketts at Wrexham, feels that an injury-free pre-season and regular action in Town's warm-up friendlies has put him in good stead for the packed campaign ahead.
"I don't doubt myself at all but last season wasn't me," added Walker. "It's hard to come in when you've not played for five weeks and you're thrown in and you have to be up to speed.
"To do it if you're not playing hard is so hard to get up to speed.
"But I've had a great pre-season, played in every game and started the season well and hopefully I can kick on now."
Asked if he felt he had forced his way into Ricketts' thoughts for a continued place in the side, he added: "I don't see why not. I thought I did really well against Middlesbrough and Portsmouth wasn't a footballing performance but it was digging in, win headers and tackles and I thought I did really well."
Town's new system and style was noticeable at Fratton Park, particularly early on, when the visitors' high-energy approach caught out their hosts.
"Yes, definitely (a shift) in the mentality of the players," Walker said. "The first thought now is to go and press and get the ball to create chances.
"The front six we've got, including subs, will score us goals and we'll create.
"The pre-season and performance at the Riverside, we don't fear anyone really. People think we're little old Shrewsbury Town but we don't fear anyone. We work hard and will get our rewards.
"We've worked really hard, had a real tough pre-season, a long pre-season through lockdown working hard and hopefully it'll pay off."