HAVING entered his thirties without a Football League appearance to his name, Laurie Walker started to wonder if it was all worth it.

"There are times when I've looked at it and gone 'I need to give up, because it's just not running for me'," he admitted.

"There were times when I questioned why I was doing it."

But the goalkeeper is living proof that patience, persistence, and sheer hard graft does pay off.

Walker began his career with MK Dons' academy but was released at the age of 16.

From there he embarked on a non-league career, with Cambridge United, Kettering, Brackley Town and Hemel Hempstead Town among his clubs.

It led to a return to his boyhood club 10 years after leaving Stadium MK, but then a further wait for his senior debut. Over a year in fact, in the Papa John's Trophy earlier this season when he starred against a Northampton side managed by Keith Curle at the time.

Latics boss Keith Curle

Latics boss Keith Curle

Walker says he does not know whether he left an impression on the now Oldham boss, prompting to his move to Boundary Park on an emergency loan following injury to Ian Lawlor.

Whatever the reason, he is grateful for the new lease of life he has found with Latics.

"It's one of those things, you put the serious hours in. Every single day you are in the game you are staying fit, you are working with the goalkeeping coaches to improve, you are analysing what you can when you play. It's every boy's dream from a young age to play professional football and that dream has come true and the hard work has paid off," said Walker.

"You have got to really keep working. You never really know and football changes so quickly. At 31 years old I get a call on a Thursday evening... one minute I'm cooking dinner in my house in Milton Keynes, the next I'm on the M1 at 9 o'clock in the evening, driving up to Oldham.

"To play Football League football and then to come to a club like Oldham, with all their history, it was a no-brainer.

"The feeling when I stepped out that first Saturday against Cambridge, I don't think you can describe it to be honest, and it's built from there."

Walker was in at the deep end, only briefly meeting his new team-mates before being thrust straight into the starting line-up to face high flying and free scoring Cambridge United.

He had to retrieve the ball from that net four times that day, as the U's fought back from 2-0 down to win 4-2. But since then he has produced saves to put Latics within a whisker of beating Scunthorpe United, kept a clean sheet at Bradford City, and an outstanding performance against Exeter City on Tuesday laid the platform for Curle to celebrate his first win in charge.

But it's all in a day's work for Walker.

Laurie Walker in action for Latics

Laurie Walker in action for Latics

Referencing a couple of his key saves, the stopper said: "The first one, you've just got to spread yourself and just pray it hits you as well," adding with a smile: "There is an element that we know what we are doing.

"The second one, it's the same scenario, he has hit the post and then it's rolled to their guy and I've gone on and made myself big and luckily it came off the bottom of my foot and then it just dropped straight back to me.

"But you create your own luck as well, which is good but I think we deserve a bit of the rub of the green with how things have gone - the last minute goal at Scunthorpe. I feel the luck is hopefully changing and that was the little bit of luck we needed to be fair."

But while Walker has appreciated the plaudits that have come his way, he has remained grounded despite the attention.

"You shouldn't expect any extra praise for that because it is effectively you doing your job," he said.

"It is nice to make saves like that and then when it results in a goal (at the other end), which was a hell of a finish, it's big moments in games that can completely sway the balance so it's nice to make that save. But as a group I'm just doing my thing with the lads in front of me absolutely working their socks off for 90 minutes. Pidge (Carl Piergianni) heading everything, Jamo (Kyle Jameson) heading everything doing their jobs so I have to step in and do my job as well."

And after years of groundwork, he is appreciating his professional breakthrough and chance to shine, albeit coming at the expense of an injury-ending season for Lawlor.

"You've just got to build it game by game and just trust your own ability as well," he said.

"I've never doubted myself. I've had plenty of doubters in my time but the one thing you have to do is believe in yourself constantly otherwise you will just fall away.

"I can't thank the gaffer enough for giving me that opportunity and I'm just going to five absolutely everything I can for the club to push them in the right direction.

Ian Lawlor is out for the season

Ian Lawlor is out for the season

"I've got to mention Loz (Lawlor) as well. He has been fantastic since I came in. He hasn't changed his attitude and grafting hard and everyone around the place has really got round me and welcomed me in.

"It's a great time and a great place to be around.

"I'm doing my job. It's really enjoyable, it's what you work for week in, week out to get out on to the pitch and really put into practice what you've done all week on the training field."

And Walker thanked MK Dons boss Russell Martin and his staff for their unwavering belief that he would eventually get his chance, somewhere, and for encouraging him not to give up.

"I've had constant dialogue with the gaffer and all the coaching staff back there. They've been absolutely fantastic for me. They've taken me in and developed my way of playing and they've developed me as a goalkeeper and that's all credit to the staff there," he said.

"They've put so much effort into me. I see this as my way of repaying them as well and being ready.

"It's fantastic. They've done a great job in helping me stay confident in myself and to keep believing in myself.

"It's tough as a goalkeeper. Mentally it's very tough because you might have nothing to do all game and then you've got to be ready in the 89th minute. And then in other games you will get shot after shot after shot.

"Goalkeeping can be a lonely position and there's only one position.

"They've really made me believe in myself and really pushed me to get this opportunity.

"They have sat me down and said 'you are a really good goalkeeper, keep doing what you're doing and your time will come'. They weren't joking."

Milton Keynes Dons manager Russell Martin

Milton Keynes Dons' manager Russell Martin