Brighton boss Graham Potter believes Christian Walton possesses “top-level attributes” but has been left playing catch-up in his quest to become the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Former England Under-21 international Walton made his first Seagulls appearance in almost six years during Saturday’s 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over League One Blackpool.
The 25-year-old had seven loan spells away from the Amex Stadium but finally looked set to challenge for Albion’s number one jersey before injuring an ankle during a pre-season friendly against Chelsea in August.
Spaniard Robert Sanchez has recently replaced the departed Mat Ryan as Potter’s preferred Premier League keeper, with the fit-again Walton attempting to make up for lost time as he and fellow understudy Jason Steele compete for game time.
“(It has been) frustrating from his perspective because the injury set him back,” Potter said of Walton.
“Jason and Rob have probably – while he was injured – taken some steps forward, so he was just a victim of that more than anything. He’s done nothing wrong.
“You can see his quality, he’s ambitious, he has top-level attributes, so we are happy to have him with us and competing for a place.”
Walton began his youth career with Plymouth before moving to Brighton aged 17 in 2013.
The Cornwall-born keeper made four Albion appearances during the 2014-15 campaign before being shipped out to six different clubs to gain experience.
He had little to do against the Seasiders but superbly kept out a Luke Garbutt free-kick before being powerless to prevent Gary Madine’s equaliser.
After allowing Australia international Ryan to join Arsenal on loan on Friday, Potter is content with the keepers at his disposal.
“(It was) not an easy game for him (Walton) to show what he was about; one good save from the free-kick and neat and tidy with his distribution but apart from that not too much,” said Potter.
“(It was) good for him to get some game time.
“We’re happy with those three. Different attributes, different personalities but a good mix for us.”
Ryan had been Brighton’s first-choice keeper since promotion in 2017 but fell out of favour last month.
Reflecting on the 28-year-old’s move to the Gunners, Potter said: “In the end, I think it’s a great opportunity for Maty.
“Obviously he wants to play more. I think he will get some opportunities there, especially with them in the Europa League.
“(It is a) fantastic opportunity for him, great club, good experience, and pleased for him and hope he does well, apart from when we play them.”