Almost four years since he was picked for the World Cup finals, morethan two since his stunning hat-trick in Zagreb and Theo Walcott stillprovokes debate.
Walcott won his ninth England cap against Egypt on Wednesday. It washis first international appearance of an injury-hit season and, despiteflashes of his breath-taking speed, he was a peripheral figure.
Not that Fabio Capello seemed to mind. He adores the winger's raw pace and wants to take him to South Africa.
'Theo is one of the faster players we have,' said Capello. 'Iremember the performances when he was fit, before he was injured and hehas time to recover that form. When you don't play a lot of games andthen when you have the chance to start you try to do impossiblethings.'
Others were not so generous. Chris Waddle, England winger of 62caps, was commentating on England's 3-1 victory for BBC 5 Live andWalcott's display merely confirmed his suspicions about the Arsenalwideman.
'I don't think he's got a football brain,' said Waddle, who alsomonitored Walcott's progress closely during last summer's EuropeanUnder 21 Championships. 'He doesn't understand the game, where to berunning, when to run inside a full back, when to play a one-two. It'sall off the cuff.
'Let's be honest, good defenders would catch him offside every time.I don't know whether he studies the game, learns the game. He's at agreat club, where they play fantastic football and I'm surprised he'snever developed his game.
'People keep saying he's young but Wayne Rooney understood the gameat 16. I've never seen any difference in Walcott since he was atSouthampton and broke into the team at a very young age. He doesn'tplay a lot of football. He hasn't done anything for a long time. Ithink Croatia was a one-off.'
Walcott's match-winning performance in Zagreb in September 2008 willlive long in the memory. In an intimidating atmosphere, against a verygood team who 10 months earlier had won at Wembley to deny England aplace at the European Championship, Walcott scored three in a 4-1 win.
In the weeks which followed, Capello spoke gushingly at an LMAdinner about this teenage talent who he was sure would prove to beEngland's most important player in the decade ahead.
Walcott, however, is smart enough to know he cannot live off hisheroics in Croatia forever. 'It seems such a long time ago, what withall the injuries I've had,' said Walcott.
'It's been a frustrating time. I've put everything into trying toget fit, not concentrating on the past. It's all about the present.
Wide boy: Waddle (left) played 62 times on the England wing
'I'm trying to play well for Arsenal and go on from there.Fitness-wise, I feel fine. It's turned around for me. The mostimportant thing is to have a good end to the season and playconsistently.'
Arsene Wenger tackled the issue of Walcott's development as heprepared his team to play Aston Villa, earlier this year. Asked whyVilla's Ashley Young and James Milner suddenly seemed more influentialthan Walcott, Wenger ignored the injuries which have interrupted hisprogress during the past two years and pointed to age.
Milner and Young are both 24. It is easy to forget Walcott does notturn 21 until the 16th of this month. At the same age, David Beckhamhad yet to play for England, let alone win a competitive gamesingle-handedly.
Beckham made his debut at 21, Sir Bobby Charlton was 20. Waddle, forall his natural talent, was 24 before he won his first England cap,having started his career at non-League Tow Law Town.
They were all allowed to develop at their own pace. Capello and Wenger will protect Walcott's right to do the same.
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Explore more:People:Fabio Capello, David Beckham, Ashley Young, James Milner, Theo Walcott, Wayne RooneyPlaces:Croatia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Egypt