Walcott hoping for striking chance

Andover Advertiser: Theo Walcott believes he can play up front just as he has done with Arsenal Theo Walcott believes he can play up front just as he has done with Arsenal

Theo Walcott is ready to answer Roy Hodgson's striking call should the England manager decide to pair the Arsenal man with Wayne Rooney at Wembley on Wednesday night.

With Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge both ruled out by injury, Hodgson has been left with only two forwards from his original squad, Rooney and Danny Welbeck. And in training at St George's Park on Monday, Walcott was the player pushed up to support Rooney, occupying the role where he has enjoyed so much success with Arsenal this season.

"I didn't expect it to go as well as it has," said Walcott. "I thought it would take a few games to get used to it because I hadn't played there for seven years. I have done it in training but matches are totally different. Of course there were nerves and a lot of pressure but when you are demanding to play in a certain role you need to perform."

He continued: "If the manager decides to pick me with Wayne it could work. I am probably slightly quicker than him off the mark. I am a runner, whilst Wayne likes to drop and can see any ball. He is something special and definitely in top form."

Walcott's move inside is a replica of the one Thierry Henry made with such stunning results following his move from Juventus. And on his recent training stint with the Gunners, Henry took time out to discuss the situation with Walcott in a private chat the England man rates as one of the most important 90 minutes of his entire career.

"It's probably the best hour and half I've ever had," said Walcott. "I just went up to him. I didn't expect it to be that long but I am glad it was. You learn a lot when you talk to someone with that much experience. It was about all sorts of stuff and maybe one day I'll come out with it. But it meant a lot."

The conversation was another significant event during a season in which Walcott has made the transition from youth to mature individual, worthy of the 30 caps he has now amassed. Even Walcott's features have changed, the scar running right across his eye was as a result of a weekend confrontation with Stoke.

"I think it was (Andy) Wilkinson - it must have been an accident, might been hand and nails," he said.

"He stopped me - quite a lot. But there were loads of things happening off the ball which the linesmen and referees didn't see. A few people have said it makes me look a little bit harder.

"But I honestly don't believe that because I am the biggest softy of them all."

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