Sunday 20 January 2019

Walcott's night dash from Arsenal

Everton's new signing Theo Walcott. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire
Everton's new signing Theo Walcott. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

The thought of Theo Walcott surreptitiously shoving boots into a bin bag at a darkened Arsenal training ground is not the most dignified image for a man ending his 12 years at the club.

Everton's new arrival was eager to point out yesterday that his rapid exit was not as clandestine as might have been suggested.

Nevertheless, as the 28-year-old described this hasty, awkward goodbye, it sounded more like an evacuation than a pre-planned farewell. "I had to go at night, it was quiet there - there were just a couple of security guards around," said Walcott. "All I had to put my boots in were some bin bags.

"It wasn't the way I would have wanted to have left, but knowing it wasn't official yet, that no one knew about it, I got a sense people would have been a bit surprised at how quickly it developed, so I had to get my stuff very quickly. I wouldn't have liked to have gone at night and picked up all the stuff on my own, but that is how it is."

The exit was frantic, but Walcott had sensed a parting of the ways with manager Arsene Wenger coming for a while.

"There was a period last season when the starts weren't coming any more. We had that game at Crystal Palace [a 3-0 defeat] and I think it was after that," he says.

"There was the odd performance off the bench. The conversations with the manager will always stay in the room.

"I am not going to tell you what was said, but I have respect for him, and he had respect for me and how my feelings were developing. That's why I felt it was time to go. It was a difficult decision. You have been somewhere for 12 years, you know so many people, you've met so many great people, and the fans have been great to me as well, so it was really tough - really tough. You get some players and it has scarred them maybe, but I haven't got a sense of that at all.

"It hasn't even hit me yet, properly. When I go back there, it will hit me, I'm sure - it has been my life, my family, so it will hit me.

"But I feel like this is my next challenge and I am excited about it, I really am."

Walcott is shadowed by the question: has the potential of the 16-year-old who moved from Southampton to Arsenal been realised or gone unfulfilled?

"Yeah, I do hear it all the time. But I went through an experience that I don't think many players have," he said. "I missed a lot of the development side of it all. I never really got a chance to go behind the scenes and progress.

"At 16, I had to go straight in and grow up very fast - I had to set up with half of the Invincibles squad. I have seen the players come and go, and still being part of that.

"Many players would not have been able to cope with that. But I managed to cope with it, and I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me. I generally don't like it when people talk about regrets because you do your best and you deal with the circumstances that happen.

Walcott's use of "we" when referencing his old club hints that the transition into Everton may take a while after his £20m transfer. "I wish the club all the best, I want them to develop, I want them to improve. Obviously, there has been quite a lot of negativity around the place, but I am an Everton player now and my main concern is being here, and performing well," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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