Wednesday, 2 June 2010
From England hero to England reject, it has been quite a couple of years for Theo Walcott.
The Arsenal winger was the headline making absentee from Fabio Capello’s England squad; paying the price for an indifferent 12 months with Arsenal, admittedly hampered by a succession of injuries.
Many Arsenal fans will not surprised at the decision. They have been underwhelmed by Walcott this year as he repeatedly failed to match his blistering pace with an end product (much like Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was included, but that argument is for another day).
But once again I feel Walcott has been a victim of English football’s media hype machine. Ever since Wayne Rooney, a once in a generation talent, burst onto the Premier League scene eight years ago, the press have been hungry to discover the next hidden gem, no matter how young they maybe.
Walcott stood out as a 16-year-old at Southampton, then a middle ranking Championship side. But a promising talent was all he was. Yet the sensationalist headlines soon followed making him out to be England’s next wonderkid.
But still, despite is raw talent, St Mary’s would have been the ideal place for Walcott to develop as player.
In his defence I think he then became a victim of circumstance. Firstly Southampton, heavily in debt, saw Walcott as an asset and when Arsenal came calling, they were only too happy to take the money.
All of a sudden Walcott was rocketed up into the Premier League’s top four, under a manager renowned for nurturing young talent. But he isn’t a Rooney or a Fabregas. Those two developed at much quicker rates than Walcott, yet he was judged like them and expected to hit the heights immediately.
Again things weren’t helped by his ridiculous inclusion in England’s World Cup 2006
squad. It was one of the final acts of a man truly losing the plot when Sven decided to include Walcott, despite never seeing him play and watching just half a training session.
Walcott’s image was racing way ahead of where he truly lay as a footballer. He was nowhere near international standard and to be honest, could have done with a few more years down out Southampton to aid his progress.
The ensuing years have been seen one injury after another and, one magic night in Zagreb aside, a stalling career that is threatening to never meet people’s sky high expectations.
His exclusion from the squad must now be turned into a positive. A clear summer to rest and re-cooperate before a committed bid to rediscover that lost potential.