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CHRIS WADDLE EXCLUSIVE: Leaving Theo Walcott at home is a no-brainer

09 Mar 2010 08:11:07

CHRIS WADDLE EXCLUSIVE: Leaving Theo Walcott at home is a no-brainer

Glory days: Waddle in action for Wednesday After more than a decade with England and 62 caps to my name, I know only too well what it's like to be the kind of international to provoke debate among the country's football fans. They either love you or hate you. Criticism and detailed analysis of your performances come with the territory the moment you put on the international shirt. It is the scrutiny you must accept and expect as an England player. And I know every time I played there were experts, ex-internationals and everyday fans who couldn't understand why I was picked and would never put me in their own line-ups. But the reaction to my comments about Theo Walcott last week have still surprised me. There are possibly five places maximum up for grabs in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad and Walcott is in contention for one of them. This is a serious talking point for England fans. And I am not sure I would take him to South Africa. I have watched Walcott for a number of years and there are no doubts he has strengths to his game. Well, he has one strength in particular: his terrific pace. But why does he not use it more? Why does he not get more of the ball? You can only look at his movement and conclude it is not good enough. He proved he can cross and deliver a ball against Burnley at the weekend. But why does he not do that consistently? I stand by my assessment that he doesn't yet have a football brain. People keep telling me he is only young and he is still developing, but he is learning the game under one of the best teachers in the world in Arsene Wenger. Why are we not seeing that all important consistency in his game yet? Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas and James Milner are still young, but they are all classed as intelligent footballers and have been that way from a very young age. Back to his best: Walcott scores against Burnley on Saturday Milner can also play on the right of midfield, but has been used in central midfield by Martin O'Neill precisely because he understands the game. He picks the pass, he doesn't give the ball away, he is bright when he has it. And he was the same when he played on the wing for Villa and Newcastle. I would like to see Walcott used on the left to help his development. When I joined Newcastle from non-League Tow Law, I had played inside left. When I got into the Newcastle team it was as a left winger but it was soon apparent to me that if I couldn't get past the full back, I had fewer options cutting in from the left and on to my right foot. So I worked on my right for hours; in the gym banging the ball against the wall, from 10 yards, then longer distances, eventually crossing it from longer distances. I'd work on the training ground with one of the young apprentices or young keepers, just trying all the time to make my right foot stronger so I could use it to cross or shoot in games. Football brain? Waddle questions Walcott's reading of the game and his reliance on sheer pace Eventually I asked to play on the right because I wanted to be able to use both feet to their full strength. I think I hardly played on the left again after that. And if I finished a game and hadn't created four or five chances or had two or three shots of my own, I didn't think I'd done my job properly. Speed, of course, is absolutely crucial in the modern game, and you won't get far without it. But I'd rather have a footballer than a speed merchant. So who will Capello take? Few can still cross a ball better than David Beckham, and he will never lose that but he is not playing at Milan. And can he hurt teams playing 40-yard balls from inside his own half? Walcott is sheer pace and is very direct and I don't know if he gets on the ball enough or delivers good enough crosses. Funnily enough, the same could have been said of Aaron Lennon a year ago but, before injury, he was starting to deliver the final ball, starting to look a threat, and he has a trick or two. If he is fit I'd take him. Shaun Wright-Phillips looked lively last week against Egypt and Milner can play in so many positions. Because of his intelligence, you know you can trust him. We have a few other wingers, such as Ashley Young and Stewart Downing at Villa and Adam Johnson, who I'm delighted to see has started so well at Manchester City. He looks one for the future. Just not for this World Cup. I wonder if the same will be true of Theo Walcott?  Chris Waddle was talking to Colin Young  Jamie Redknapp's Weekend Watch: Theo Walcott needs more than paceArsenal 3 Burnley 1: Theo Walcott puts his England misery behind himArsenal winger Theo Walcott hopes Burnley strike signals change in 'most frustrating' season and silences criticsWayward Walcott just isn't ready for World Cup, claims England idol Waddle


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