Walcott beats Johnson to England winger role


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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello is expected to bring Theo Walcott back into the England team for their Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland tomorrow as he opts for a 4-3-3 formation with Darren Bent as the centre-forward.

Walcott, 22, missed the last two games against Wales and Ghana in March in which Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney operated in the wide positions in a three-man attack with Bent down the middle. Tomorrow at Wembley, Walcott is expected to be selected ahead of Stewart Downing, James Milner and Adam Johnson who are all contenders for the role.

Walcott has played four times for Capello this season having been omitted from the World Cup final squad this time last year. The Arsenal winger has trained as part of a three with Bent and Young this week. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry will also be re-united in the centre of defence of a strong England team missing just the suspended Wayne Rooney and the injured Steven Gerrard from those who command starting places.

Walcott's inclusion means Adam Johnson is likely to miss out on the starting line-up. It will disappointment to the Manchester City winger as he made an impact with England in the away tie against Switzerland in September.

"The game over there was a great night for me personally," he said, "one of the career highs, especially with England. It's the best game I have had for England at under-21 or seniors. But it's a different game on Saturday. It's going to be different players on each team, and we've got to look to get a win so everyone goes away for the summer happy."

Johnson, who had been omitted from the summer's World Cup squad, was an early replacement in Basle for Walcott, who turned his ankle and had to come off. He capped an excellent display with a goal, his second in successive qualifiers. An ankle injury in January interrupted his burgeoning international career but he returned to feature in City's late surge into third in the Premier League, and their FA Cup triumph.

"Since I have got back from injury I have been pleased with my form, but not really delighted with it," he said. "But it will take a little bit of time to get back. It was the first long-term injury of my career and I rushed back a bit for the big games like the FA semi-final [against Manchester United]. Apart from the injury it's been a good season. I've been reasonably happy with my performances, we've won the FA Cup and qualified for the Champions League."

Johnson admitted the fight for places is fierce. "There's a lot of competition on the wings, so whoever plays has to grasp the spot and keep it."

The winger also discussed Carlos Tevez and his possible transfer away from City. "He is the best player I have played with. He carries us sometimes with his goals and his drive. Some of the goals, and some of the stuff he does in training, is just unbelievable. I hope we keep hold of him because he will be a major part next season when we are playing in the Champions League.

"There's probably only five or six strikers out there who get you that many goals a season at the highest level. We have one of them, so it would be great if we could keep him." Had Tevez not given the squad some clue as to his intentions? A big going-away Argentine-style barbecue for example? "He does not really say much, he is quite quiet," revealed Johnson, adding: "His English isn't too good. He keeps himself to himself."

With or without Tevez Johnson is excited about life at City. "When I signed I knew I was joining something that was going to be massive," he said. "Back then I had not played for England, or in the Champions League. But in the last year-and-a-half since I signed, my whole life has changed."