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Why Eddie must not be another Theo

OPINION: We might just be left waiting forever for Theo Walcott's breakthrough season

26 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring against Norwich City PICTURE: ARSENAL FC

ASKED by FIFA to nominate three picks for its Best Player (In The World) Award, it has been revealed that England manager Gareth Southgate mentioned neither Lionel Messi or Neymar.

No, the brain chosen to lead our country to World Cup glory next summer plumped instead for Cristiano Ronaldo (fair enough, he went on to win it) and also Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

With such, let’s call it interesting, judgment, you can sort of understand why any Englishman who draws breath may feel they have a half a chance of being on the plane to Russia next year.

This includes me, you and Theo Walcott, who told us all last week that he has not given up on playing for the national team again. “It’s down to hard work,” he insisted gamely. Presumably still enthused by memories of that recent hat-trick against Croatia, in 2008, he added: “I know my qualities. I have got so much experience under my belt, there is no reason why I can’t prove people wrong and get back in the squad.”

No reason? Where to start, but the irony of Theo fretting about the importance of experience will not be lost on those who saw him mug Jermain Defoe for a place in the squad for the 2006 World Cup when he was an untried teenager. The idea that now, as a wise sage of a 28-year-old, all grown up with slick back hair, he should be in ahead of, say, the 19-year-old Marcus Rashford, is a bit of a stretch even for those still living on Planet Walcott. The believers are out there, and they still wait and hope for the breakthrough season, but it is getting cruel on them now.

Walcott is a bit like a buzz band in one of the outside tents at Glastonbury; you want it all to be good because they seem like nice people but deep down you know they will never be headliners, and, in fact, you are bit bored by their glockenspiel melodies. Or in Walcott’s case, being offside.

He’s played for Arsenal for 11 years, and yet would he get a place on the Emirates Stadium mural when the time comes to update it?

The issue with his unfulfilled promise perhaps runs back to his manager, Arsene Wenger, who has not quite fulfilled his own promise as the perfect dad figure to nurture young talent in recent years.

Player development seems to stall at a certain age, world beaters suddenly freeze away at Stoke every year. Let us hope then for different luck for young Eddie Nketiah, who upstaged Walcott, Olivier Giroud and others by turning the League Cup tie against Norwich City.

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