From Fratton Park to crowds of 67,507 - former Portsmouth and Tottenham utility man thriving with MLS play-off hopefuls Atlanta United
He was a Fratton Park bit-part player, the utility man turned to in times of need rather than automatic first-team choice.
Now Anton Walkes is the driving force behind Atlanta United’s bid to be crowned MLS champions.
This term no player has featured more for the Eastern Conference side, who are to face New York City in the play-offs on Sunday.
Operating in a back three, Walkes has started 33 of Atlanta’s 34 matches so far this season, in the process amassing more minutes than any other player.
What’s more, the 24-year-old has also captained the Five Stripes, who are based in Georgia, America.
The former Spurs man’s career has clearly flourished after departing Pompey for the MLS in January 2020.
It was a deal which suited all parties, with the Blues recouping the £100,000 they splashed out for the defender, following 66 appearances and three goals.
Walkes was a reliable, committed performer, yet never quite established himself in Kenny Jackett’s first-team.
Initially arriving on loan from White Hart Lane in January 2018 for the remainder of the season, his stay was to become permanent.
During the next two years with Pompey, Walkes served at right-back, centre midfielder, left-back and centre-half to demonstrate his versatility.
Yet it was primarily at right-back where he featured, although he utilised mainly as a stand-in for Nathan Thompson when the need arose.
Thompson, of course, was Jackett’s first choice, yet prone to injuries, thereby opening the door to Walkes for spells in the side.
His final Pompey outing was at left-back in a 1-1 New Year’s Day draw at Gillingham in January 2020, before returning to America.
He had previously spent the 2017 MLS season on loan at Atlanta, making 20 appearances and scoring twice.
The chance to return to America some two-and-a-half years later, where his partner and child were based, was too tempting to turn down.
He now plays for a club boasting an average home attendance of 43,964 – with a staggering 67,507 present at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Columbus Crew in July.
In fact, Atlanta have recorded the Eastern Conference’s highest average attendance for five successive seasons.
The club also proudly claim they possess the ‘ninth highest attendance per match in the entire world’.
Now Walkes is eyeing success in the MLS play-offs as he seeks to maintain a blossoming career across the Atlantic.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron