Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Shock Walcott Decision Was My Idea

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Shock Walcott Decision Was My Idea

Article excerpt

Byline: LEO SPALL

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON today insisted the decision to take teenager Theo Walcott to the World Cup was solely his.

The bold move to include Arsenal's inexperienced 17-year-old striker in his 23 for Germany has caused a major shock, with some questioning the England head coach's rationale.

Eriksson admitted it was probably his "biggest, bravest, boldest" managerial gamble as he has never seen Walcott play a game live, and one of his predecessors, Bobby Robson, suggested it was a mistake.

But the role of Steve McClaren in the move to a more risky selection approach after he was announced as the Swede's successor has been played down.

McClaren, Eriksson's assistant until the end of the World Cup, may have a reputation for putting his faith in youth but the head coach said: "Steve had the same input as he has always done during the last five years. He had the same input as Tord Grip, Ray Clemence and Sammy Lee.

"We had a telephone conference on Friday afternoon and then I spoke to all of them again yesterday. I took

the decision for myself yesterday morning. I was in the office when Ray and Tord went to Arsenal's training ground to see Walcott play for the reserves.

After that I took the decision with the reports back from the game."

Eriksson is mainly acquainted with the former Southampton teenager's talent through videos and reports. He has watched him in training only three times.

He waited yesterday before choosing Walcott ahead of Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Andrew Johnson, on Grip's report from an unofficial reserve game.

The teenager played in an under-21 game against an Irish team just hours before the squad announcement. Arsenal won 2-1 but Walcott did not score.

With serious doubts still hanging over the fitness of England's 'A' list strikers, Eriksson has been given a major boost by the continually improving fitness of Ashley Cole.

The 25-year-old completed only his second competitive game in seven months as Arsenal romped to a 4-2 victory over Wigan on the historic final day at Highbury to secure Champions League football at the new Emirates Stadium. …

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