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?
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

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms