So, after all that Theo Walcott was called up for the England U21 side due to take part in the European Championships next month, alongside team-mate Kieran Gibbs.
It’s great news for Gibbs, but a mixed blessing for Walcott.
In a generally disappointing season, Gibbs’ emergence was a definite highlight for me. I can’t think of any other player of his age and his experience who ended up playing in an FA Cup semi-final and two Champions League semi-finals in their first 15 senior games for their club – and he acquitted himself excellently. Of course, he made a mistake that precipitated our second-leg Champions League meltdown, and he looked raw at other times, but he did incredibly well by and large, and shows great promise. Seeing that he won’t be considered first-choice left-back next season, a close season tournament such as this is crucial to his development.
With Walcott, it’s a little different, even if he is only a year older than Gibbs and would also benefit from the experience. Because unlike Gibbs, he’ll also be playing with the senior England side, so I can see where Wenger’s anger at him being used by both comes from. Apparently, he’ll only have had a week off by the time pre-season training starts.
The issue is complicated by the fact that, as far as we can tell, Walcott is keen to tuck into as much summer football as possible. So he’s got his club boss pulling him one way, his national bosses another and his heart in yet another.
Even if you take his mid-season three-month layoff into account, as a key first-team player Walcott will need a decent break this summer, and unless something gives (ie he’s used as a sub only for the seniors) then he won’t get that. And when the World Cup starts this time next year, what kind of a state will Walcott be in?