Joshua Peacock,

Correspondent (Sport)


Arsenal’s Theo Walcott will be left wondering if he will ever appear at a World Cup final after his latest injury setback puts him out not only for the rest of the club season but for the entirety of this year’s World Cup.

Walcott suffered a knee injury in Arsenal’s 2-0 FA Cup victory over local rivals Tottenham, a win that may be remembered more for the Englishman’s ‘score line gesture’ while leaving the pitch than it will be for his imperious form.

Walcott’s smiles while leaving the pitch perhaps masked the seriousness of the injury at the time, as a later released Arsenal statement read: “Theo has sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. He will have surgery in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, thus missing the rest of the season and the World Cup.”

With an injury so severe, six months is often at the more optimistic end of the recovery period, and will only be achieved if the forward suffers no setbacks along the way. Such a lengthy period out will undoubtedly leave both Arsenal and England wondering how to replace a man who seemed destined to play a crucial role for each of them this year.

World Cup Curse?

Somehow, despite being in the England set up and the public eye for nearly a decade, Theo Walcott has never played at a World Cup final. He made his England debut in 2006 aged just 17, only weeks after becoming the surprise inclusion in then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson’s World Cup squad.

Walcott’s shock inclusion came at the expense of established Premier League goal scorers like Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe, and remains one of the most controversial selections of all time. However, his trip to Germany was wasted as he didn’t play any minutes and was later relegated to the Under-21 squad by Eriksson’s successor, Steve McClaren.

After spending two years with the Under-21 ‘squad, Walcott made his competitive debut for England in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra in 2008. He followed that match by becoming the youngest ever player to score a hat-trick for England in a 4-1 win against Croatia.

Walcott appeared to have arrived on the international stage but his contribution to England’s qualification to the 2010 World Cup wasn’t enough to see him included in the squad for the finals. England manager Fabio Capello later admitted he regretted not including the Arsenal forward after a bitterly disappointing campaign.

The 2012/2013 club season was by some distance Walcott’s finest yet, and saw him cement his international place when available. Injury problems often saw him miss out on key qualification matches but manager Roy Hodgson made no secret of his plans to use Walcott when fit.

After more injury issues early on in the 2013/14 club season, Walcott’s comeback had inspired Arsenal’s return to form and left England fans hopeful that he could repeat such feats in Brazil. His current setback will now see him miss out on another World Cup final which is being billed as one of the biggest of all time.

Walcott will be 29 by the time the 2018 World Cup in Russia begins. In football mythology, the late 20s and early 30s represent a player’s ‘prime’, but this may prove different for the England striker. In 2018, Walcott will have been playing at the top level for nearly 15 years, and as a player who relies on his pace, 2018 could be the former Southampton man’s last hopes of a World Cup appearance.

Image Courtesy: Ronnie MacDonald, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license | Wiki Commons