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."

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

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border