Walcott happy to ignore stinging Hansen jibes
Theo Walcott has been challenged by many defenders in recent seasons but the most challenging has been Alan Hansen, the Liverpool and Scotland legend who stopped playing nearly 20 years ago.
Hansen's critique of Walcott, claiming he "lacked a football brain" caused a stir that the Arsenal flier addressed yesterday.
"The people I listen to are the boss (Arsene Wenger), Mr Capello, the players and my family," Walcott said yesterday, as he looked forward to England's opening European Championship qualifying match against Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday. "They are the most important people in my career. Hopefully people want me to do well, apart from Tottenham fans probably."
Hansen echoed Chris Waddle, the former England winger, who feels Walcott still needs to learn the craft of eluding a full-back. Surely the views of two distinguished former players were worth absorbing?
"It's something I have to live with," shrugged Walcott. "At 21, playing for Arsenal and England is not a bad achievement so far. I am listening to the right people."
Walcott has started the season on fire. A hat-trick against Blackpool and a strike against Blackburn followed a strong 45 minutes for England against Hungary at Wembley. "In the dressing-room before the game, Mr Capello said: 'Just be direct. Get at the player'."
For all their desire to shield a young talent, Capello and Wenger have actually been helped by Hansen and Waddle. Walcott is far from the finished article.
He is good and can get better. Remarks about his being too nice, not training enough, needing to develop his upper body strength and being over-reliant on pace were all legitimate.
Walcott had to tackle certain flaws. And he is. His maturing as a footballing force accelerated when Capello omitted him from the World Cup. His initial reaction was one of anger.
"I would have loved to have gone," he said. "I missed the opportunity to play in 2006 even though I didn't deserve to go. I hadn't played in the Premier League and I hadn't justified being there at all. This time, I had a feeling I could be there, but I couldn't point fingers at Mr Capello. I had to blame myself because the form wasn't there at the end of the season."
Walcott has toughened up physically and mentally. "I think you can be nice off the pitch and (tough on it). Look at David Beckham. He's the nicest guy but someone who gets up from the tackles, puts in the deliveries.
"When I was 17 or 18, if I got kicked I would have stayed down. Now I get up. That's when the full-back thinks, 'I'm going to have a torrid day today'. I know I'm going to get kicked every game. It is a compliment." (© Daily Telegraph, London)