World Cup qualifiers: Arsenal forward Theo Walcott says he now feels he belongs in England set-up

Forward admits need for more England goals as Hodgson's striking options are reduced

Theo Walcott might have raised a smile or two with his revelation that Wayne Rooney's damaged forehead looks "like something out of a horror film" but as he looked ahead to England's World Cup Group H double-header against Moldova and Ukraine, the Arsenal forward admitted that the loss of England's leading attacking player was no laughing matter.

The absence of Rooney, England's five-goal top scorer in qualifying, is the biggest headache facing manager Roy Hodgson as he prepares for Friday's Wembley meeting with Moldova and the daunting trip to Ukraine next Tuesday, and one that could be compounded if Daniel Sturridge – absent from training today along with Jermain Defoe, Jack Wilshere and Steven Caulker – misses out too.

Walcott reflected on Rooney's importance to England as he revealed he had seen a photo of the gash in the Manchester United player's forehead which required ten stitches after an accidental training ground collision with Phil Jones.

"It's very well documented how many goals Wayne has got and his contribution, he's a massive threat," said Walcott. "Everyone will have to step up because we know how important these games are and how big they are.

"I have seen a picture and it is a very, very big gash," he added of the injury. "It's like something out of a horror film. It is not going to help his looks I wouldn't think. It is sad to see but it is an opportunity for someone to come in and take their chance."

While Walcott cited Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert as "great options" for Hodgson, perhaps he might be the man to step up himself. At 24, he admits he finally feels at home in the England set-up. It is seven years since his controversial call-up, aged 17, to England's 2006 World Cup squad and five since his hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier in Croatia. Yet not until last month's friendly win over Scotland had he scored a home goal for his country.

"I feel like one of the oldest guys in the team at the moment actually," he said. "I feel like I should be here. A few years ago I was always a bit timid maybe, but it feel like this is where I should be."

A prolific campaign for Arsenal last season has boosted that belief. "Goals have been a big thing in my game, getting 21 last year," he said. "Now the next step is getting goals for England as well.

"I think because of the way I have been playing for Arsenal, [Hodgson] is seeing that with England and I am starting to show that belief in myself as well. The main thing for me now is staying fit."

Walcott spoke like a fan when he suggested a World Cup without England "doesn't feel right", but he knows there is work to do for a team currently second in Group H, two points behind leaders Montenegro. "It will be a dream come true to go out there but we are not there yet. We have four tough fixtures – people say it's Moldova but we know how professional we need to be, but the World Cup is the top."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea