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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 14, 2006

Walcott World Cup selection left McClaren stunned

Sven-Goran Eriksson admits his idea to take Theo Walcott to the World Cup was met by a stunned silence from his England coaches.

The Swede shocked the nation last week when he picked 17-year-old Walcott ahead of established Premiership stars like Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent.

He told coaches Steve McClaren and Sammy Lee about his plan during a telephone conference before he announced his squad.

Eriksson said: 'There was silence at the other end. Sammy and Steve can't say anything because they have never seen him play.

'If you only have to take 14 players, I wouldn't have done it but you take 23 and a standby list so why not? I think everyone is looking forward to it because it's something fresh.'

The England boss admits it is a risk to plunge Arsenal kid Walcott into the world's biggest football tournament before he has even kicked a ball in the Premiership.

The Swede is not renowned for recklessness and promised he has not suddenly developed a gambling problem which could wreck the country's World Cup dream.

Eriksson said: 'I'm not a gambler. I don't like gambling. I have been to casinos in Italy and Monaco. I like blackjack better than roulette and when I was young we played poker in the military service. I won some money.

'I play with friends but I'm not into it, I don't enjoy it too much.'

The England manager had never seen Walcott play in a competitive game and he expects rival managers to be scrambling for video footage of the teenager in action.

He took advice from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and is convinced the rookie striker can be a secret World Cup weapon.

Eriksson said: 'I might be the only one with tapes. The other managers will have to find out about him. He will be someone they have never met before, they never saw him play football.

'They have probably heard that he's quick but when they see it they won't believe he is that quick.'

Eriksson's is looking to terrorise his opponents with sheer pace in Germany.

As well as the jet-heeled Walcott, he has flying wingers Aaron Lennon and Stewart Downing in his squad.

Eriksson said: 'They might never start a World Cup match. You don't know. But to have the option of pace whenever you need it, maybe in the second half when it's 0-0 or you're losing 1-0, it is the perfect option.

'I thought the World Cup had come too soon for Lennon but the last two months have made me change my mind. Downing and Lennon in the past have not been at the level they are today.

'They made me change my mind when I went to see them. The real senior players who have been in there for a long time are curious to see Downing and Lennon.

'And to see this young boy of course.'