Theo Walcott reflects on his fortunes this season so far, for both club and country.
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier
9pm, Tuesday 20 November 2007
His two goals in Germany just over a year ago secured England Under-21s' passage through to this year’s UEFA European Championship, and now Theo Walcott is back in the groove as he looks to help the Three Lions take one step towards the Finals in 2009.
The Arsenal forward missed the summer’s trip to Holland, where England lost out to the hosts in the Semi-Final, with a shoulder injury but after another dazzling display against Bulgaria at Milton Keynes on Friday, Walcott feels like he’s getting back to his best.
Walcott has played 13 times for the Gunners this season, and with his shoulder problem now behind him, he is looking for success with both club and country and a win on Tuesday night in Portugal will take him one step closer.
“My shoulder is fine now and that has helped because I feel more confident holding off players,” he explained.
“I know I can run at players now without having to worry about it popping out and I'm really happy with it.
“I'm playing more for Arsenal now and I think that is starting to show in my confidence on the pitch. When you're in and out of the side all the time, it's very difficult but I'm more settled now.
“I'm getting my touch back, after a period where I didn't play for a very long time.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Walcott is still just a teenager. After his multi-million pound transfer, an England cap, a trip to a World Cup, a League Cup Final strike and a Champions League brace – he has crammed lots into the embryonic stages of his career.
But with such achievements, come great notoriety and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to walk down the street again without attracting a knowing glance.
“My life has changed a lot,” he said.
“I don’t think everyone realises I am still 18. It’s strange that everyone knows my name and my face. It does put pressure on you. When you do well the pressure will be there, but I try and ignore it.”
Until Joe Mattock’s inclusion un the Under-21s squad last week, Walcott was the youngest player, but he feels at home whenever the squad meets up.
“The team spirit has been really good,” he added. "The way we are training, everyone is relaxed and really happy.
“There are plenty of characters in the squad. Steven Taylor is one. He just makes everyone laugh, but he has everyone’s respect though.”
Walcott is enjoying working under Stuart Pearce, who was appointed as full-time Head Coach in July. A fierce competitor during his playing days – both tackles and free-kicks left fans wincing – the former England left-back is passion personified.
His demeanour as a coach is a little more becalmed and it’s an environment the players are thriving under.
“He’s a good coach, you can tell that from the results,” said Walcott.
“Training is brilliant. He talks to all the players individually and you can talk to him like he’s one of the lads sometimes. He’s such a nice man to work with and he has the respect of all of the team.
“The boss has shown his faith in me and I want to repay that. I just want to do well for England and take that form back to my club.”