Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Walcott Left Devastated by His Stunning Fall from Grace

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Walcott Left Devastated by His Stunning Fall from Grace

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Football Correspondent

IT IS often argued that injustices in football are balanced out over time but Theo Walcott will find it difficult to appreciate that sense of karma tonight.

Four years after personal euphoria and public shock greeted his inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad despite having never played a Premier League match, the Arsenal winger ran the most contrasting gamut of emotions as Fabio Capello left him out of the group for South Africa.

Walcott was on the golf course this morning, clearly not expecting to receive one of the seven phone calls Capello made to deliver the bad news.

The 21-year-old was left devastated by the decision as despite a season for Arsenal that he has regularly described as the most frustrating of his life, he felt a place on the plane was justified this time around.

Only last week, Walcott spoke of his immaturity in 2006 with an air of embarrassment, admitting he was the "babyface" who "did not deserve to be involved".

Such honesty was tinged with the confidence of four years' development at Emirates Stadium and that his pedigree had been proven in an England shirt to the extent his place this time was merited.

But Capello's decision is perhaps the most definitive example yet of the Italian's ruthlessness, for no one who saw Walcott destroy Croatia with a devastating hat-trick in September 2008 could ever have imagined this.

England have won all 11 matches Walcott has played in, averaging more than three goals a game, and despite lauding his frightening pace, Capello opted for Shaun Wright-Phillips's more reliable delivery and greater experience at international level as understudy to Tottenham's Aaron Lennon, who must surely be certain of a starting place now.

While the inclusion of Wright-Phillips (right) will be celebrated as much by his father as the man himself, it is a dramatic fall from grace for Walcott, whose season has been truncated by injury and only flashes of form.

The truth is he was never able to convince over an extended period. A superb cameo against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final first leg preceded another impact in the away match early on, before fading into anonymity and Capello clearly feels the dramatic range of performance on offer is too great a risk in a World Cup. …

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