Theo Walcott was dramatically ruled out of England's game against Germany tonight when he collapsed in agony after dislocating his right shoulder in training. There was immediate concern for the Arsenal winger who tried to continue after a challenge from Scott Parker but then fell to the sodden turf of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Walcott was covered in blankets and carried off on a stretcher and will see a specialist today before a final decision is made as to whether he needs surgery although, last night, that appeared highly likely. The blow will have serious repercussions for his club's season. If surgery is required the 19-year-old could be out of action for around 10 weeks.
After the injury Walcott was taken to hospital for the shoulder to be put back in place. England manager Fabio Capello said: "Our priority is Theo and making him as comfortable as possible before he returns to England. We're all very disappointed but the most important thing is for Theo to travel home and make a quick recovery."
Walcott has had persistent shoulder problems in recent years, which is a result of a hereditary condition that weakened the ligaments in his arm. He missed the European under-21 championships last year to undergo corrective surgery, in March, on his left shoulder which is now pinned. Walcott suffered another shoulder injury against Stoke City at the start of this month, but it was discovered that he had only had muscle spasms and the shoulder was not dislocated.
The latest injury brings to eight the total of first-team regulars who will miss tonight's friendly encounter with Germany, which has left Capello's preparations in tatters. From his first-choice XI he now only has David James, John Terry and Gareth Barry available.
The state of affairs has left Capello frustrated and he felt moved yesterday to declare, in no uncertain terms, that he would be the final arbiter when it came to deciding whether players could be withdrawn from his squad through injury.
Capello reiterated that he would strictly follow the Fifa regulations that allow him to have players examined by England's medical staff rather than simply take the word of clubs who claim they cannot be included. His words will annoy club managers, although that will hardly be a concern to Capello.
"This will be the rules for next time," Capello said. "Always, when one player plays on a Saturday or Sunday and we have a game, we want to check all the players whether it'll be possible to recover or not. If it is possible for them to play in midweek, they'll stay with us. If not, they can go home."
Asked why he would not simply believe the clubs and their medical departments, Capello added: "I think because, sometimes, to avoid arguments, misunderstandings. My way is always that I want to check everything. I want to check with my doctor, with my coaches. This will be the rule in the next games. Always. We respect the doctors of the (club) teams, but the rules will be to check the condition of the players. I spoke privately not only with Rafael Benitez."
That was in reference to a conversation Capello had with the Liverpool manager over the club's announcement that Steven Gerrard's groin injury, picked up against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, meant he could not join up with the rest of the squad. As with Chelsea's Frank Lampard – damaged ribs – Capello insisted that Gerrard reported for duty. "Lampard came with pain and we checked. We found problems," Capello said. "Not the club. Our doctor. For that reason, we told him to go home. If he had to play tomorrow, he'd need an injection. It's not a game for him to play with an injection. Gerrard came having been examined by his club. We checked it with our examination and we found it the same. We sent him back home."
Asked why he hadn't also insisted on Joe Hart making the journey to the team hotel near Watford, Capello made motions with his arms to demonstrate the Manchester City goalkeeper had been stretchered off following his ankle injury against Hull City on Sunday.
As much as the Football Association tried to play down Capello's statements it was clear from the Italian's tone that he feels he has been messed around by the clubs.
It was a theme also picked up on by Terry when he was asked whether some players absent this evening would have missed a World Cup qualifier. "Maybe not," he said. "If it was a qualifier, the manager is going to need his senior players. The manager's been clever with the clubs. There are going to be times when he needs a Steven Gerrard, a Rio or a Frank. He'll ask them to play through an injury then.
"For people to say players have pulled out because they're not injured, I think that's rubbish. I think the clubs understand it. Managers know certain games you might be struggling, so they tell you to get through this game and, maybe, rest for the Carling Cup. I think he's been clever here."
Given the opponents, and Capello's competitive edge, he scoffed at suggestions that it could be an easy-going contest. "For me, it's not a friendly either. I want to win every game," he said. "Friendly games are only practice matches in training and I'm the referee. And I always win." The message was the same as the one delivered to the Premier League clubs.
England's absentees: On the treatment table
Players missing tonight's friendly through injury:
Joe Hart (Manchester City), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Emile Heskey (Wigan Athletic)Reuse content