Why World Cup axe will make Theo better

There’s been a lot of squawking in the press recently about Theo Walcott’s axing from the World Cup squad, the majority of it tediously pessimistic. In fact, rants about Walcott’s abilities have been irritatingly common place for a while now, one particular Chris Waddle interview springs to mind. But since being dropped from the South African troupe, the widely held opinion is that Theo has flopped and has begun his fade into obscurity. This doesn’t have to be the case though – being cut from the World Cup squad has the potential to finally unleash the best of a player that, at times, has shown glimpses of genuine brilliance.
Theo shot to fame four years ago when he was named as a shock member of Sven-Göran Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad. Without much forethought, the British media typically hyped-up Walcott’s abilities and labelled him the most promising talent in the game, a future England hero! The story that top Premier League clubs had battled for his signature just served to increase the hysteria surrounding him. Walcott’s presence in the media and football world developed incredibly suddenly – and all between the ages of 16 and 17. This is where I think the problem started.
Before Theo was the talk of the town, he was an average young footballer working hard to make a name for himself and to be the best he could be. Then, within the space of a few months, he was front-page news, had signed for Premier League club Arsenal and was heading to the World Cup. It makes you wonder what the sudden flood of fame did to the teenager.
This is my theory (I apologise in advance if any readers know Theo personally and think I’m wrong; I’m just surmising). I believe the sudden leap to national recognition gave Theo an overdose of confidence and self-belief. Both these attributes are certainly essential but too much of either can be very dangerous. After being praised from every facet of the press, signing for Arsenal and going to the World Cup, Theo began to think he’d already succeeded. Why keep improving when you’re the best thing since sliced bread? He became a victim of his own hype.
Theo’s not the type to flaunt his own abilities in the narcissistic way that Cristiano Ronaldo used to, but I certainly think he regards himself to be much better than he actually is. I remember one interview in particular, not long after he’d taken the number 14, when he was asked if wearing the special number was a sign of things to come. In a hilariously straight-faced reply, with more than just a touch of false modesty, Theo answered: “Well, obviously Thierry is a legend at the club but to be honest, I don’t think I’m quite that good yet.” Saying Theo Walcott is not quite as good as Thierry Henry is like saying John Terry is not quite as celibate as Jesus.
But before you assume this is just another Walcott-bashing article, I’ll explain why missing out on the World Cup could potentially do him a world of good. Being cut from the squad may be the reminder Theo needed that he’s not the world-class player he thought he was, he’s not just entitled to a place in any starting eleven. Maybe a wake-up call like that will inspire him to raise his game and renew his focus on improving. If he keeps a positive state of mind, he could use this off-season to make sure he’s 100% fit and ready for the start of the 10/11 campaign.
When judging Theo, it’s useful to forget all the sensationalist reporting that surrounded him four years ago. Instead of complaining that he didn’t live up to expectations and announcing he’s a flop, try to be a bit more objective about the situation. He’s a forward with four years Premier League experience, who’s scored in all four competitions, posses lightning pace and is his nation’s youngest player to score a hat-trick. All that and still just 21-years-old, I’m more than happy to have the player with that resume on our team-sheet.
If Theo Walcott can regain the attitude he had before he hit the spotlight and keep himself injury free until August – then there’s every chance he’ll fulfil all that potential and live up to the number on his back.

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