Walcott ready to soar after flying the nest

Winger targets World Cup trip after leaving home and growing up fast at Arsenal

Tattoos by David Beckham's body artist and creating paintings for an exhibition, even a mohawk haircut. The Theo Walcott who has just moved out of his parents' house is not the same wide-eyed teenager who joined Arsenal from Southampton in January 2006 and was then, to everyone's astonishment, part of the World Cup squad five months later.

Not that Walcott, 20, returning from injury and expected to be involved today against Fulham, has become a brash, outspoken young man after three and a half years under Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager. Walcott is trying to grow a Mohawk while the the newest tattoo is, endearingly, of dragons and knights and remains under wraps, and the artwork is for a charity founded by Bob Wilson, the former Arsenal goalkeeper.

Action for Walcott today, even if just from the substitutes' bench, would be his first appearance after a summer marked by controversy, when he was included in the England squad in the Under-21 European Championship, much to Wenger's displeasure, after playing for the senior England team in two World Cup qualifiers.

He then picked up a back injury in pre-season that seemed to reinforce Wenger's view that Walcott had been overplayed, and he was ruled out of the start to this season including the away defeats to Manchester United and Manchester City.

Speaking at the exhibition in north London, Walcott said: "I'm definitely ready to go now. It's been a long time, especially after the Under-21s and I came back when the others had started pre-season training, so that set me back."

Then came his decision to up sticks, with his girlfriend Melanie, which led to him going through what most people feel when they leave the nest. He says: "The first couple of weeks is quite difficult living away from home. I found myself locking up my house and just going back to my parents' house, to be honest. But my place feels like home now so it's all good. You want to be your own person as well as being close to your family." Not least of all, the move has taken him away from his father's expert cooking.

In his absence, England have qualified for the World Cup. The 5-1 win at Wembley against Croatia this month that secured a spot in South Africa came a year after Walcott had apparently made his place in Fabio Capello's side permanent with a hat-trick in the 4-1 win in Zagreb.

However, Aaron Lennon's skill and speed on the right wing against Croatia, as well as Shaun Wright-Phillips' presence, mean Walcott will have to fight hard to make his first playing appearance at a World Cup. As a thoughtful man, he is well aware of the competition for places. He says: "It feels like I've been round for a very long time but I'm still only 20. There's always going to be pressure but down the years I think I've dealt with it fairly well. It's a big year for me so I just want to get back on the pitch and forget about the injuries." His team-mates at Arsenal will echo that.

The Art of Sport, in aid of the Willow Foundation, is on at the Catto Gallery in Hampstead until 27 September. For more information or to view the artwork visit www.willowfoundation.org.uk/artofsport

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style