Every player has their price, warns Plymouth Argyle boss
ARGYLE'S ambition to build for the future by developing their own players could be about to face another test.
Under-18s goalkeeper Christian Walton has been at the centre of speculation this week over a possible £300,000 bid from Premier League club Fulham.
Manager Carl Fletcher confirmed Argyle had not been approached about Walton, a first-year apprentice from Wadebridge in north Cornwall, but admitted 'every player has their price'.
The potential of Walton has been evident for some time.
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He played regularly for the under-18s last season, despite still being a schoolboy, and was an unused substitute when the Pilgrims played Stourbridge in the FA Cup first round at Home Park last November.
Former Argyle head of youth development Gordon Bennett also told Herald Sport after his retirement at the end of last season that Walton was the best goalkeeping prospect he had seen since Rob Green emerged through the youth ranks at Norwich City.
Green's career as a professional has seen him play for Norwich, West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers, as well as making 12 appearances for England.
The Daily Mail and the Sky Sports website have carried stories about Fulham's interest in Walton this week.
In both they stated Walton was 18, when he is not 17 until the middle of next month.
Fletcher said: "We have got some good youngsters and, from my point of view, we want to keep them here and, hopefully, progress them through and they can play lots of games for Argyle. Then we can sell them for massive money.
"But, at the end of the day, if someone is willing to pay good money for any player – a youngster or whoever it be – the club as a business has to look at, and sometimes you just can't turn it down."
Argyle were forced into the sale of some of their top young prospects during their seven-month stint in administration in 2011.
Striker Joe Mason was snapped up by Cardiff City for £250,000, while Southampton paid out £150,000 for versatile defender Jack Stephens.
In addition, centre-back Lloyd Jones – then aged 15 – was signed by Liverpool for £20,000.
Fletcher is not worried Walton will be distracted by the speculation about his future.
He and the rest of the Argyle under-18s squad have an important FA Youth Cup first round tie against Exeter City at Home Park next Wednesday.
Fletcher: "Christian is a level-headed lad. He works hard and trains hard.
"For me, he's a good prospect and we would like him to play for our first team in the years to come, and to bring our youngsters through rather than selling them on, but every player has their price.
"He has got ability, and he has got potential, but that's all it is at the minute.
"Until you go out there onto that pitch on a Saturday afternoon and get 50-100 league games under your belt, then all it is, is potential."
Walton signed centre of excellence forms for Argyle at the age of 10 in September 2006, when he was still a pupil at Wadebridge Primary School.
He came to prominence with some outstanding displays for the Pilgrims in the high-profile Northern Ireland Milk Cup international youth tournament in July 2010.