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Scottish goalkeeper Walker proves instant hit at Hibs

Bobby Walker spent one season with Hibs.

Bobby Walker spent one season with Hibs.

The start of the 1936-37 football season was accompanied by a high dose of optimism for Hibernians FC.

During the summer months, the town of Paola was gripped by enthusiasm as the club signed some high-profile foreign players.

Hibs’ plans, however, received a great setback when they lost goalkeeper Alex Svoboda to Floriana. To replace him, the club engaged the services of young Scottish goalkeeper Bobby Walker.

In 1935-36, Walker had kept goal for Falkirk on 17 occasions as they won promotion to the Scottish First Division. He also played for a while with Motherwell in the top flight.

Walker proved to be an instant success with Hibernians.

Although not a spectacular goalkeeper like Svoboda, he had a safe pair of hands as he proved in the Christmas Tourney matches against Rapid Vienna and Hungaria when Hibernians obtained the best result of the tournament.

In the league, he only conceded six goals in as many matches, enabling Hibs to finish in the runners-up position.

The only flaw in an otherwise excellent season came in the Cassar Cup final against Floriana. Hibs lost 7-0 but one must say that Walker was certainly not the only one to blame for his side’s heavy defeat.

Perhaps, Walker’s best performance in Malta came in a league game against Sliema Wanderers, played on January 10, 1937.

The Blues were favourites to win. The pundits, however, ignored the Paolites’ traditional fighting spirit and the skills of their Scottish goalkeeper.

Hibs packed their penalty area, making it ever so difficult for Sliema’s brilliant attacking trio – Salvu Sammut, Tony Nicholl and Joe Sammut – to find a way through.

Sliema exerted tremendous pressure on Hibs but the Paolites’ defence held fast and when, at times, as it was bound to happen, the Sliema strikers found the space to shoot, there was Walker to tidy up.

Walker refused to ruffle a hair even in the most hectic moments. Time and again he plucked the ball away from a forest of feet.

He intercepted shots and centres which would have spelt trouble had they been allowed to go across the goalmouth where Nicholl and Co. were always hovering.

Walker fisted away innumerable balls lobbed over by the eager Sliema forwards and his coolness and interceptions during corners were that of a first-class international goalkeeper.

He was Sliema’s public enemy number one that day, but even the most ardent Sliema supporters were ready to pay tribute to the extra-ordinary game played by the big Scott.

It seemed that Hibs had found a worthy successor for Svoboda. Plans were made to re-sign Walker for the new season but the MFA was worried that, if this influx of foreign players was not controlled, the game would end in bankruptcy.

The Council needed to set an example and Hibernians paid the price.

In a notice in the Times of Malta of May 28, 1937, the MFA revealed that Hibs had been suspended because the club was heavily in debt.

Hibs were disbanded, and Walker, together with the club’s other foreign players, left the islands and was never heard of again.

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