Walcott: "I deserve to be here"
Monday, 24 May, 2010
The winger says he's earned his spot in the 30-man squad.
Four years ago, as England prepared to take on the world in Germany, a 17-year-old Theo Walcott was thrust into the national spotlight. Having only signed for Arsenal in January 2006 after just 21 league games for Southampton, Walcott was selected in Sven-Goran Eriksson's 23-man World Cup squad.
Although Walcott didn't feature in any of England's five games in the Finals, his inclusion in the squad was a regular topic of conversation in the news and amongst fans.
Now, four years on, the winger has played over 130 times for the Gunners, picked up a European Under-21 Championship runners-up medal and scored a hat-trick for Fabio Capello's team. And this time around he feels he deserves his place in the reckoning for South Africa.
“I hadn't even played in the Premier League [four years ago], so I didn't expect it at all," he reveals in the official England v Mexico match programme.
“It feels different this time. Getting into the 30 I feel that I deserve to be here, I was part of the qualification campaign and I'm playing regularly in the Premier League.
“It is all down to hard work, going back to my time at Southampton, at Newbury, it's those elements that got me started.”
And despite not playing in Germany, the experience of being with the squad, as well as appearing for Stuart Pearce’s Under-21s at Euro 2009 in Sweden, will have helped educate Walcott to the demands of international tournament football.
“The World Cup feels like it was just the other week. I know a lot has happened, I've had a lot of ups and downs, but the best way to deal with things is to react on the pitch. I'm still only 21, when I was still developing at 17 I got into a World Cup squad straight away, which was a lot of pressure.”
He continued: “The Under-21s Championship last year was my first tournament experience of actually playing, and it doesn't matter what age group it is the experience of Finals is invaluable. We played against Germany, Spain and Sweden in front of big crowds. It was a great experience.
“Even though we lost the Final, it was closer than the scoreline suggested. Just having the experience of playing in a tournament and getting to the Final will stand me in good stead for my future and I can take what I learned to help me improve next time.”