McClaren keen to reassure Walcott of England future

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The Independent Football

Time is hardly running out for Theo Walcott to make the transition from hyped teenager to genuine international but the Arsenal forward was last night reassured by Steve McClaren that he remains part of England's future and could ultimately prosper on the left side of the nation's attack.

The 17-year-old has continued his football education at a more realistic level since the England manager amended one of the most controversial decisions of Sven Goran Eriksson's reign and returned the untested and untried World Cup squad member to the Under-21s.

McClaren is without his present left-midfield incumbent Joe Cole for the European Championship qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia through injury and is considering omitting Stewart Downing from his starting XI at Old Trafford tomorrow.

McClaren said: "When you look at the modern game, people are not stuck in one position. The likes of Eto'o and Ronaldinho at Barcelona rotate so one's in the middle and one's on the left. They interchange. The modern player has to be adaptable and flexible enough to do that.

"Theo Walcott is young, inexperienced and needs to get more games but he's certainly one in that bracket. I've seen him play on the right and on the left and do very well there but he's getting invaluable experience in the Under-21s."

England's youngest-ever international will have another chance to impress tonight when Peter Taylor's Under-21s begin their European Championship play-off against Germany. The first leg is at Coventry.

McClaren added: "We've got two tough games against Germany and we want to qualify for the championships and Theo Walcott is getting that experience."