Search

Euro 2012: Arsenal star is gunning for France in England opener

12:01 11 June 2012

Belgium

Belgium's Jan Vertonghen and England's Theo Walcott battle for the ball

EMPICS Sport

Theo Walcott knows he may have to settle for place on the bench in Donetsk, but is raring to go

The last time England prepared to begin a major tournament, Theo Walcott was nowhere to be seen.

Two years ago, the Arsenal midfielder was still reeling from what he has since described as the worst moment of his football career, being axed from Fabio Capello’s squad for the 2010 World Cup.

The player whose sensational hat-trick in Croatia had set England on the path to the finals had been jettisoned at the last moment, and the pain for the then 21-year-old Walcott was raw.

Two years on, Capello is the one who is missing the tournament, while Walcott is preparing for England’s opening Group D game against France.

And while the Arsenal midfielder is not guaranteed to start in Donetsk, he is feeling upbeat about the Three Lions’ chances under Roy Hodgson after the two friendly victories since the former West Bromwich Albion boss took the reins.

“If you go the whole tournament winning 1-0 I’m sure no-one will complain about that,” said Walcott. “We are getting used to the way that Roy wants the team to set up and play. It’s a positive going into the tournament,” added the 23-year-old who knows that, like his Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he may have to settle for a place on the bench against the French.

“We are a team playing without any fear and when players come off the bench they want to grab that opportunity. I’ve had the hamstring problem at the end of the season and I’m starting to ease my way back into it now. I’m training hard and I feel great. Hopefully I can show a bit more of that in a starting role.”

A spate of injuries, combined with the two-game suspension for Wayne Rooney, give Walcott a better chance of being involved than looked likely when he struggled with injury at the end of last season.

He proved his fitness in time to be selected, but now the likes of Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard have been ruled out of the tournament, Walcott’s 24 caps and six years at this level make him a little more than one of the kids and pushing for a starting role – a fact that is uppermost in his mind.

“Everyone’s role is up for grabs,” added Walcott. “There is always competition in any team. You have to train well and when you are given the opportunity you have to take it.

“If you come off the bench it’s what you do on the pitch that matters, [but] going to a tournament is not just about individual players. It’s about the team. With the team and the quality we have in that dressing room we can go far if we all just trust each other.

“Wayne is a very important player to the team. He has a two match ban but the players that we have play in the best league in the world as well.

“It’s not a hard task for anyone who comes into Wayne’s role. You never know, they may keep Wayne out of the team if they do well in the first two games.”

Plenty of comparisons have been made between Oxlade-Chamberlain’s selection as an 18-year-old for this tournament, and the inclusion of a 17-year-old Walcott by Sven Goran Eriksson for the 2006 World Cup. Walcott did not figure for England in Germany that summer, but any notion that Oxlade-Chamberlain is just along for the ride in Poland and Ukraine was immediately dismissed by Walcott.

“Alex is the sort of person you don’t have to [give advice to],” Walcott said. “He’s a young man, likes to play with no fear, very confident. If there are people who haven’t heard about him before the tournament, they will hear about him afterwards. I’m sure about that.”

It is almost four years since Walcott scored that hat-trick in Zagreb, strikes that remain his only goals in an England shirt, and it is six years since he was first picked by Eriksson.

Oxlade-Chamberlain having an impact would be a bonus for England and for Arsenal, but for Walcott it is perhaps a little overdue.

He has just enjoyed his best season for the Gunners and now England expects in the hope that the one-time boy wonder can finally deliver.

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Tue, 18:52
Spurs Ladies forward Bianca Baptiste (right). Pic: Clive Jones

Spurs Ladies won a cup double last season and forward Bianca Baptiste would love to go one better and secure a treble this term – but she believes the focus should be on the league and a top-three finish.

Tue, 18:35
Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette

Lyon have refuted reports that they have received a second bid from Arsenal for star striker Alexandre Lacazette.

Tue, 15:14
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino has shown his willingness to put his faith in Tottenham’s youngsters on plenty of occasions, and they will usually thank him for it.

Tue, 07:30
North London players celebrate a wicket from Jordan Gregory in their five-run win against Brentham. Pic: Max Flego

Captain Sam Bardon has urged North London to maintain the impetus of their seven-match unbeaten run as they prepare to face the top two sides in Middlesex County League Division Three.

Mon, 17:06
Joel Hughes has taken 100 wickets for North Middlesex in the Premier Division. Pic: Paolo Minoli

North Middlesex secured their fourth straight Premier Division victory after beating second-placed Teddington by two runs – and captain Tom Nicoll believes the strength of his side’s bowling attack means they have a shot at the title.

Mon, 15:24
Brondesbury captain Adam Wilson (centre), pictured against Hornsey. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Brondesbury slipped out of the promotion spots after a four-wicket defeat at Harrow St Mary’s – and Hornsey were unable to capitalise as they drew with Indian Gymkhana.

Mon, 14:47
Ragheb Aga (right) hit an unbeaten 65 for Hampstead. Pic: Max Flego

Ragheb Aga struck a crucial unbeaten 65 as Hampstead narrowly overcame basement boys Eastcote and moved out of the Premier Division relegation zone.

Mon, 07:14
Middlesex's Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan feels Middlesex’s impressive County Championship form has been a key factor in their recent improvement in white-ball cricket.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now