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Apr 20, 2013

Walcott: I can handle abuse from fans

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott has said he has learned to deal with criticism from fans and avoids reading what people are saying about him on message boards or Twitter.

Walcott, 24, was linked with a move away from the Emirates at the start of the season but eventually signed a new deal in January.

He returned to Arsene Wenger's line-up for the 0-0 draw against Everton on Tuesday after recovering from injury, and could start again as Arsenal take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Looking back to difficult times last season when sections of the Gunners crowd appeared to turn against him as his contract saga rumbled on, he told the Times: "Last year, against Tottenham in the first half, I got a lot of abuse from the fans - which wasn't fair.

"I'm sure they would be nice to my face. People always are nice when they meet you. They would come up to me and say: 'We hope you stay, but respect your decision.'

"It's only on message boards or Twitter - or when it's in a crowd - that it turns nasty, and that's why I avoid all that stuff."

But the forward shrugged off the abuse against Spurs, scoring twice in the second half as the Gunners came back from 2-0 down to win 5-2 against their local rivals.

He admitted that he had initially struggled to acclimatise to life in North London after moving to Arsenal from Southampton as a youngster, and that his self-belief had not always been as high as it could have been.

"At times, maybe, I haven't believed how good I am," he explained. "People around me - my agent, my dad - say that to me sometimes. I think that might be the case."

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