SIMON Walton wasn’t best pleased when he found himself populating the substitutes bench at the start of the season – and didn’t shy away from telling his manager.
It was 12 months ago that the new summer signing struggled to live up to his pre-season billing once the competitive action had begun.
Eventually, though, Walton regained his place in the side and duly won over a home support which had been divided as to his talents.
The midfielder perhaps feared a similar scenario unfolding when he was omitted from the team for the opening-day trip to Rochdale.
But Walton has started the last four matches in the middle of the park, winning praise from Colin Cooper in that time.
“I’ve heard the gaffer say that the happier I am the better I’ll play,” the 25-year-old told SportMail ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Torquay United.
“That’s true of most players and I feel happy now.
“But nobody enjoys losing so once we start getting some points I’m sure I’ll feel even better.”
And Walton looked back: “When I came in after last season I tried to put what happened out of my mind.
“I have come back fitter and I’m still trying to improve on that.
“I’m working towards getting to where I know I can be, getting the very best from myself.
“I’ve bent the gaffer’s ear probably more than anyone else this season and I think it’s helped.
“Last season was a nightmare at times and relegation was awful, but I’d like to think I showed what I am capable of in the second half of the season.
“We can’t have a similar first half and I’m sure we won’t.
“We’re nearly there, we just need that little bit extra what everyone pays all the money for, someone to score the goals.
“We’ve just got to keep striving towards where we want to be as a team.”
Walton has swiftly forged an understanding with teenager Brad Walker in the centre of midfield.
Cooper has credited the senior partner with helping his junior comrade through matches, although Walton remarked: “I think Brad looks after me more than the other way around!
“Brad has been a major plus for everyone.
“Just watching him go about training and the games with a big grin on his face is pleasing for everyone.
“The type of lad he is you want to help him along and he’s thriving at the moment.”