Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Walcott Fires off a Reply to Critics

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Walcott Fires off a Reply to Critics

Article excerpt

England Under-21s 3

Republic of Ireland Under-21s 0

THEO Walcott scored on his return to St Mary's last night but insisted he would continue to ignore the hype surrounding his development since leaving Southampton.

Walcott's goal - along with a strike from Newcastle United's James Milner and a Milner effort which was deflected in off an unfortuante defender - virtually assured Stuart Pearce's Under-21s of a play-off to reach the 2009 European Championships in Sweden.

It took Walcott's Under-21 tally to five goals, one more than he has managed for Arsenal - but he is determined to ignore suggestions he is not playing enough for the club he signed for two years ago.

"I don't pay any attention to the criticism about me," he said. "The only ones I listen to are my family and close friends. I just try to get on with football and try to perform every game."

Walcott added the gloss on a hardfought victory over the visitors, despite the 3-0 scoreline. It was not until Aaron Lennon got into the game midway through the first half that England got any momentum going.

Even so, Milner was the only one to force a save from Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph, with Lennon, Walcott and David Wheater going off target. In fact, it was the visitors who had the best chance before the scoring started but Andrew Keogh's shot was saved by Joe Hart when he raced through.

"Credit to our goalkeeper," said Pearce. "He says 'stand up and try to beat me'."

The deadlock was broken just before the hour mark when Milner's shot flew in off Stephen O'Halloran, who is on loan at Southampton.

Milner added the second himself with a precise finish off the post before Walcott cut in and added the third.

"The fans have been brilliant since I moved and when I was here they showed great support," Walcott added. …

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