Walcott hailed as fastest off the mark

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The Independent Football

David Nugent is hoping to link up again with Theo Walcott for the England Under-21s after getting a close look at how quick the Arsenal youngster is.

The pair scored against Moldova at Portman Road on Tuesday night but the visitors equalised twice to leave England's qualification for next year's European Championships in the balance. Depending on the result of Moldova's match against Switzerland, England may have to win in Lucerne to qualify for a play-off to reach the finals.

Nugent says he wants to partner Walcott in attack as England look to secure first place in Group 8.

"He's a livewire, a real talent who takes players on, hopefully I can link up with him again," the Preston striker said of Walcott, who was taken to the World Cup finals in Germany this summer but not used.

Walcott's talent persuaded the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger to invest in the 17-year-old but he has not played for his new side since his move from Southampton in January.

The young striker's pace could trouble any defence, according to Nugent, who believes that only his North End team-mate Patrick Agyemang comes close to Walcott's speed off the mark. "He's lightning quick, a lot faster than me. He has got twinkle toes when he starts running - that's his strength and he showed that against Moldova going down the flanks. There's a lad at Preston who will give him a good race, but he's one of the quickest."

Nugent believes Walcott will become more confident around his older team-mates as he gains more experience. "You could tell he was a bit nervous and shy but he'll get more experience of talking to the older lads. He might have felt a bit under pressure but so far he's learning well. He's quite a shy lad, quite quiet, but on the pitch he livens up. He's still young, only 17, and has a lot of experience to come and hopefully he will be involved a lot more.

"He must have been terrified in the summer next to all the big stars but credit to him, he'll keep going. I would be nervous."

Peter Taylor will be in charge for the Switzerland clash unless the new England senior manager Steve McClaren appoints a full-time under-21 coach ahead of next month's match.

"If the phone rings to say the FA and Steve have someone working full-time, I totally respect that," the Crystal Palace manager Taylor said. "The job is important and should be full-time so you can monitor the situation and watch each player all the time."

Taylor has blooded Darren Bent, Kieran Richardson and Dean Ashton in the under-21s before their promotion to the senior squad, and his players are impressed with his style of management.

"He has brought in similar players for every game so we're all getting on well," Nugent said. "The gaffer is a bit of a character and really wants to get involved, which is great, too."

The Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone said: "I really like Peter Taylor, he's an excellent manager. Obviously he talks to the players collectively but he also takes us aside individually and that inspires a great deal of confidence. He is never afraid to make substitutions or change the formation for the good of the team and his record speaks for itself. He did well at Hull and I'm sure he will do a good job at Crystal Palace. I've really enjoyed being coached by him."