Meet England's new hero: the clean-living boy from Newbury

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Any other 19-year-old who had single-handedly restored England's footballing pride might have celebrated with a riotous night out. Theo Walcott marked his elevation to national hero with a session on his PlayStation.

The teenager's low-key response to the euphoria generated by his hat-trick in England's 4-1 win over Croatia on Wednesday was a measure of his unflappable nature. It also showed how his family and advisers have protected him from the potential pitfalls of celebrity.

As he returned home from the World Cup qualifier, Walcott, the son of an RAF administrator and a midwife from Compton, a small village near Newbury, Berkshire, insisted he would not get carried away by the adulation. He said: "I will just ignore it. It's the way I've been brought up. Obviously, the family have looked after me, [as have] all the coaches. They keep my feet on the ground."

It is a resolve that is about to be tested. Experts predict that Walcott, who earns £20,000 a week playing for Arsenal and lives in Hertfordshire with his parents, will earn at least £100m over the next decade, putting him on a par with another former prodigy, Wayne Rooney. One sports agent said: "When that third goal went in against Croatia, it was the starting gun of a race for his signature on a whole load of contracts. He won't be advertising double glazing in the local paper. We are talking the sort of endorsements and contracts that only the big corporate names can offer, not to mention the party circuit and press attention.

"The question is how you handle it. He is still a young lad going out with his childhood sweetheart. If his advisers have any sense they won't change that. The public have probably had their fill of young men who buy baby Bentleys and whinge about only taking home in a week what their fans earn in a year."

Walcott, who drives a VW Golf, is no stranger to the media. After signing for Arsenal in 2006 for £5m (making him the most expensive 16-year-old in British football history) he came under the spotlight again when he was picked for England's 2006 World Cup squad despite having yet to appear in the Gunners' first team. He then spent much of his time in Germany using a camcorder to record his soccer heroes. As his father, Don, 47, put it: "His football will speak for itself. I suppose we have to let that happen in its own time."

The Theo files

Age: 19

Drives: VW Golf

Home: Five-bedroom villa in Hertfordshire, shared with his brother, Ashley, mother, Lynne, a midwife, and father, Don, a civilian RAF worker.

The girlfriend: Melanie Slade, a trainee physiotherapist, who got two Bs and a C in her A-levels and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in her gap year.

Celebrity appearances: Hello! magazine. Mr Walcott once appeared on Ready, Steady, Cook with Andy Murray's mother.

Theo on fidelity, football and booze: "Everyone is different, but the stuff you see some footballers doing, cheating on their girlfriends and stuff, I just think, 'Why?' Why have a girlfriend, or a wife and kids, if you're going to cheat? And drinking; when you've finished your career you can have a drink. I don't drink at all. I never have done. At school people would take the mick out of me for not drinking at parties, but that didn't bother me. It's only a short career and the way you are off the pitch makes a big difference."