Comment: Arsenal forward Theo Walcott has the personality and ability to bounce back from six-month lay-off

He has always accepted the pressure with good humour and no bitterness. He is still young and there is a World Cup in him yet

It was after England’s elimination at the hands of Portugal in the 2006 World Cup that Theo Walcott walked round the stadium in Gelsenkirchen, away from the main group of players, and with only Aaron Lennon for company, taking in the atmosphere.

If being taken to a World Cup as a teenager, then yet to feature in the Premier League, and subsequently being overlooked by the manager had affected him it did not show. He was just 17 and the expectation was that, although this tournament had not worked out as he would have liked, there would be plenty more opportunities down the line.

Almost eight years on from then and still not 25 until March, Walcott knows that the third World Cup finals of his career is about to pass him by and there is nothing he can do about it. The cruciate ligament injury is not the career-ender it once was in the days of Brian Clough or that more recent teen prodigy Wayne Harrison, who died over Christmas, but it still claims a large chunk of any career.

Unused in 2006 when it was a mistake, later acknowledged by Sven Goran Eriksson, to take him, he was the surprise omission by Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup finals squad. His hat-trick against Croatia in September 2008 had given Capello’s qualifying campaign lift-off but, by the time the tournament came around, the Italian’s faith in him had ebbed.

On that occasion, Walcott accepted the decision with good grace and a statement wishing the team well. He could never really have been considered a favourite of Roy Hodgson, although he featured in the two qualifiers against Montenegro and Ukraine. He was injured for the two decisive games against Montenegro and Poland, in which Andros Townsend seized his chance.

The quality that Walcott has always possessed is the capacity to accept the bad times and come back stronger. Like all prodigies, much has been expected of him from an early age and he has always accepted the pressure with good humour and no bitterness. He is still young and there is a World Cup in him yet.

It was last season that Walcott came of age as an Arsenal player, responding with the best run of his career after threats from the club to freeze him out of the first team until he signed a new contract. As the club blundered on with heavy-handed negotiating tactics, he stuck to what he believed was his worth and eventually got the contract he wanted. He finished the season as the club’s top goalscorer.

During that time, he found himself the target for some supporters who, unhappy with the general malaise at Arsenal then, focused their anger on the contract refusenik. Now, as Arsenal pursue their first serious title challenge since 2007-2008, the absence of Walcott will be felt in a team that, for all its little artists, needs his raw pace.

His scoreline gesture to the Spurs fans over the weekend was typically innocent, given what some might have been tempted to do in the circumstances and the controversy that followed it was desperately overblown. It is pointless getting upset over these things when, as Walcott knows better than most, football can serve you champagne one day and cold cabbage soup the next.

He might have suffered more than his fair share of disappointments but his record suggests that he has the right temperament to bounce back from this latest one.

 

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits