The England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor is confident that the Arsenal teenager Theo Walcott has not been left scarred by his World Cup experience. Walcott, who has yet to make an appearance in the Premiership, had to shoulder huge public expectation after his surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson's final squad only to be left on the bench for the duration of the tournament.
Last week he was left out of the senior squad after England's new manager, Steve McClaren, decided he would be better served with the Under-21s. Taylor has been impressed with Walcott's maturity and predicted big things for the 17-year-old if only he could get some games under his belt.
"I met him for the first time last night. He seems a first-class young boy." Taylor said. "He gets on with his training, he has been a hard-working boy. He just needs matches. If he can play 20 matches before Christmas, we will see the real Theo Walcott."
Walcott could start in tonight's European Championship qualifier against Moldova at Portman Road, but he will certainly be involved at some stage. "He has not had much football so I am not so sure if he can play 90 minutes. I just have to decide whether he will be more dangerous playing in the second half," Taylor said. "You can tell he is a very talented boy. He is very, very lively. In the training session we just had he made some great runs. It must be nice to be as quick as that."
Taylor addressed the squad at their base last night and reminded them that, with McClaren now in charge of the England set-up, they all had a chance to impress the new man.
Walcott and the goalkeeper Scott Carson have both made the senior England squad, while the West Ham pair Anton Ferdinand and Nigel Reo-Coker were on the fringes of World Cup selection. "I had a very good meeting with Steve and it is obvious that he is giving everybody a chance. Steve is very interested in the Under-21s. He wants to know a lot about these players," Taylor said. "I understand what he is saying about the Under-21s. Ifa they play well, I am sure he will have a look at them."
The current senior England squad include a number of Taylor's former charges, including the strike pair Dean Ashton and Darren Bent, the latter being called into the senior squad after originally being named for the Under-21s.
"We would have loved to have had Darren Bent here, but I am delighted for anybody who gets promoted to the seniors," Taylor said. "He was very disappointed not to be going to the World Cup so I am delighted. I was a little surprised he wasn't involved in the World Cup."
Taylor added: "Dean is a very, very good player. I am delighted for him. He works very hard on his game. He is another of the Under-21 boys to have got promoted and I am sure he will do well."
Taylor has swapped tracksuits for the week, leaving his club side Crystal Palace top of the Championship to manage the Under-21 qualifying campaign. It is a dual role Taylor is more than happy to hold at the moment, but he backed McClaren's view that it needs a permanent appointment. "Steve's eventual plan is to bring a full-time man in. I understand that, the job needs to be full time," Taylor said.
England need to win the group, which also includes Switzerland, to qualify for a two-legged play-off against one of the 13 other group winners.Reuse content