Anton Walkes didn’t want to leave Atlanta United when his loan expired following the 2017 MLS season. He hoped to stay, but his parent club Tottenham Hotspur was in charge of that decision.
After two seasons spent at Portsmouth, first on another loan and then after a transfer, Walkes finally is back with Atlanta United ahead of the 2020 season.
And, yes, he’s very happy. He said it at least three times in 10 minutes Monday in his first interview since the club announced his signing Jan. 9.
“Always in the back of my mind I would try to potentially return,” he said. “It’s good to finally be back here.”
Walkes said his first time with Atlanta United helped mature him and shape the person he is today. It was his first consistent taste of senior-team action, making 20 appearances with 17 starts, two goals and an own goal for manager Gerardo Martino. It was his first time trying to live in a new country with a different culture.
“I’m forever grateful to be part of that,” he said.
Back in England, Walkes said he watched every Atlanta United game that he could because he said it’s the club he supports.
Walkes didn’t say anything negative about Portsmouth, which has struggled since it was relegated from the Premier League following the 2009-10 season, from the Championship following the 2011-12 season, and League One following the 2012-13 season. It earned promotion from League Two to League One for the for the 2017-18 season. Walkes arrived on loan for the 2017-18 season, which became permanent, and came on a sub as the club defeated Sunderland for the 2019 EFL Trophy at Wembley Stadium in March 2019.
Walkes said he’s one of a few people who have been fortunate enough to play in Wembley and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Though he didn’t want to compare the stadium, Walkes said Mercedes-Benz is one of the loudest in which he’s ever played.
Walkes made 47 appearances for Portsmouth, playing across the back line or as a defensive midfielder.
He said he doesn’t yet know where he will play for Atlanta United, though he can slot in at left back, center back, right back or in the midfield.
“There’s no position I would say no to,” he said.
Playing in League One has made him a more physical player, he believes, and better suited to go up against the “physical beasts” in MLS.
Helping him now, Walkes said while growing up he watched manager Frank de Boer at Ajax, so he knows his philosophy and what he stands for.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to get educated by someone of his caliber,” Walkes said.
Walkes looked comfortable Monday. He joked about his emotional maturity. He joked that, other than the club, he missed Chick-fil-A the most.
That comfort, which includes knowing where to live, how to get to the training ground and stadium, the people in the front office, and the feeling of family should help his soccer, he thinks because it takes away the pressure.
“I can get back to enjoying what I do,” he said. “ That’s why all of play the games, because we love it and ultimately we come in with a smile on our face.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.