Walcott goes nowhere fast

England World Cup Squad

Theo Walcott goes nowhere fast.

Fabio Capello fooled most people with his final 23.

No-one as far as I could tell correctly read his mind to match his final selection.

Even the Fleet Street writers privy to England training camps failed to spot his intentions in full. For instance, when Stephen Warnock was omitted from the last two friendlies, it was widely interpreted as meaning he was off the radar, instead of on the plane. Ditto Shaun-Wright Phillips.

Instead, the Mexico and Japan friendlies were last-chance saloons for the second string, with only Joe Cole passing the audition with that impressive half-hour against the Japanese.

The omission of Theo Walcott has occupied most post-mortems unsurprisingly. If you can score a hat-trick away in qualifiers on your debut, trouble Barcelona and score against them in the Champions League, and get into Arsenal's team as an Englishman, chances are you're good enough for the England squad.

Being young, good-looking, pleasant and articulate did not hurt either. Maybe that was the problem, we were entranced by a wonder boy like the Americans were by Freddy Adu for years.

A clinical eye on Walcott's season reveals only 11 starts for the Gunners, while his minutes against Mexico and Japan cannot be argued to have merited selection.

Criticism of Walcott's lack of guile have been slowly growing, most vocally expressed by Chris Waddle, who claims the youngster has no football brain. Indeed, pace and control in a wide man are no good if you are running down the wrong channels, crossing badly and failing to link correctly with your teammates.

The warning signs were there at last summer's UEFA U21 Championship in Sweden. Walcott began his tournament as a high-octane sub, causing havoc in tiring defences and wowing crowds. But as coach Stuart Pearce gradually handed him more playing time his impact waned, as defences figured him out. In the final against Germany, England's match-winner in waiting never showed up to carry the day.

The omission of the incisive Adam Johnson for the predictable tramline runs of Shaun Wright-Phillips could be the more questionable choice, but given Capello's England record and trophy heritage, we should give the Italian the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows his onions.

We like to think our opinions are as valid as the gaffer's, but at the end of the day none of us have access to Fabio's thoughts and none of us his record.

England Squad

G - James, Hart, Green
D -
Johnson, A.Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, King, Carragher, Warnock

M -
Milner, Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Carrick, Wright-Phillips, J.Cole

F - Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Heskey

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


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