I played for England with Arsenal star Bukayo Saka but now I'm chasing Sunday League glory | The Sun10/08/2023
A FORMER England youth hat-trick hero who lined-up with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Conor Gallagher is now gunning for glory in Sunday League.
Ex-Middlesbrough striker Stephen Walker, 22, grabbed a treble for the Young Lions in a 6-2 win over Macedonia back in 2018.
He took home the matchball that afternoon after leading the line in a side packed full of teenagers that would go on to play under Gareth Southgate at senior level.
Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi and Chelsea midfielder Gallagher were in that starting XI, while Arsenal superstar Saka made an appearance off the bench.
And fellow full England internationals Callum Hudson-Odoi, now at Nottingham Forest, and Gunners ace Emile Smith Rowe also featured on that afternoon.
But despite all of them now being Premier League regulars, the man who scored a hat-trick is hoping to resurrect his own climb to the top with his local side on a Sunday morning.
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Walker scored nine times in 17 caps for his country at youth level and even played in the Championship for hometown club Middlesbrough after graduating from their academy.
He made his Boro debut in the Carabao Cup against Notts County in 2018 and went on to play a further eight times for the club.
Walker enjoyed loan stints in the Football League with MK Dons and Crewe, who he scored his first professional goal for in a 2-0 win over Macclesfield in February 2020.
After back-to-back promotions from League Two with the two respective clubs, Walker headed back to both for spells in the 2020/2021 campaign but struggled to replicate his previous form.
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A switch to Tranmere Rovers followed but he was restricted to just three outings for them in the EFL Trophy.
Walker was released by Middlesbrough this summer and ended up signing for Northern League Division One in the ninth tier.
However, he also recently turned out for ambitious Stockton Sunday League side Belle Vue Rovers and celebrated his debut with a strike in a 5-2 Premiership win over Yarm Athletic last month.
Now he is preparing to try and fire the club to glory in the All England Sunday Cup – the national knockout competition to crown the country’s best Sunday League side.
They face their local rivals Norton George & Dragon, who are the reigning title holders of the Stockton League, this weekend in the first round of the much-loved competition.
And he also has a familiar face in another ex-Middlesbrough striker attempting to help Belle Vue progress into the next round.
Tyrone O’Neill, 23, was another lad trying to impress at the Riverside when he got into the first-team set-up.
However, he only managed to make one appearance as sub in a 4-0 defeat to Leeds in the Championship back in November 2019 before his departure from the Riverside.
After loan spells at Hartlepool and Darlington in non-league and a brief stint at Scunthorpe United in League Two, he is now also playing locally on both a Saturday and Sunday.
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