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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 8, 2006

Lennon and Walcott get shock England call-ups

England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson admitted he only decided this morning to name 17-year-old Arsenal forward Theo Walcott in his provisional 23-man World Cup squad.

Eriksson has included Walcott, who has yet to make a Premiership appearance for Arsenal, in his squad alongside Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon - but there are no places for Ledley King, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jermaine Defoe or Darren Bent.

Walcott has not played first-team football since his £12million move from Southampton in January but is regarded as one of the hottest talents in the game and Eriksson has decided to include him in his squad.

Eriksson admitted he was taking a gamble and when asked when he made up his mind about Walcott he said: 'Finally this morning. I thought a lot about it during the last month.

'It is a gamble, of course it is a gamble I can't deny that but it is a nice one. He is a great talent. I have 23 players, why not take one gambling?' Walcott could become England's youngest international of all time and his agent Colin Gordon gave another reminder of just how tender in years his talented client is.

'He didn't find out very quickly, he was doing his theory test for his driving exam and his dad was waiting for him on a local car park,' Gordon revealed.

'(His dad) came out sprinting from the car to tell him the great news before he was accosted by an Arsenal fan. His dad got a phone call from the FA and he also heard it on the radio in the car.'

Asked what the teenager's reaction was to the news, Gordon added on Sky Sports News: 'He's still in shock. He was only expecting one decent result today. He did pass his theory test, but there you go, he's got two.

Manchester United forward Rooney's broken metatarsal is expected to rule him out of the start of the tournament but Eriksson decided to also gamble on his talisman's fitness as expected.

Owen's prolonged recovery from a similar injury has severely limited his match practice and he will head to the finals having played only 31 minutes for his club since December 31.

The tournament begins in Germany in 32 days with England's first match against Paraguay a day later on June 10.

Goalkeeper Scott Carson, Charlton right-back Luke Young, Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, West Ham captain Nigel Reo-Coker and Crystal Palace forward Andrew Johnson have been named on Eriksson's standby list.

Eriksson will submit his final squad next Monday.

Lennon has enjoyed an excellent first season in the Premiership since joining Tottenham from Leeds in the summer with his explosive skills and developing maturity.

Wright-Phillips has been left out after a disappointing season which has seen his first-team opportunities limited since joining Chelsea from Manchester City last season.

Downing's inclusion rounds off a turbulent season for the left-winger which has been largely marred by injury, before his return to fitness which culminates on Wednesday when Middlesbrough face Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final.

King is struggling to recover from injury - also a fractured metatarsal - while Defoe has spent much of the season on the bench for Tottenham.

Eriksson admitted selecting Walcott is a bold move.

'It's a big gamble, I know it is. I am excited to see him, he's a big talent. And pace in football today is worth a lot. I spoke to Arsene Wenger (Arsenal manager) and he's excited as well, very much so.

'For me it's a good squad, an interesting squad. There are some new players, some young players and it is an attacking squad with a lot of pace which is necessary in a World Cup.'

Asked how he decided on his selection, in particular leaving out the likes of Bent and Defoe, Eriksson said: 'Probably not too logically, sometimes you do it on feelings as well and I am excited about Theo Walcott.

'It would be absolutely crazy if I didn't pick Rooney when there is still a possibility he can play in the World Cup.'

• Goalkeepers: Robinson (Tottenham), James (Manchester City), Green (Norwich)

• Defenders: G Neville (Manchester United), R Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), A Cole (Arsenal), Campbell (Arsenal), Carragher (Liverpool), Bridge (Chelsea)

• Midfielders: Beckham (Real Madrid), Carrick (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Totenham), Downing (Middlesbrough), J Cole (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham)

• Forwards: Rooney (Manchester United), Owen (Newcastle), Crouch (Liverpool), Walcott (Arsenal).

• Standby players: Scott Carson, Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Jermain Defoe, Andy Johnson.

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