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Sep 9, 2008

Walcott refusing to be bullied

England winger Theo Walcott insists he can cope if Croatia defenders attempt to ''batter'' him off the ball in Zagreb on Wednesday night.

Walcott was given his first England start at the weekend and Andorra players tried to bring him down whenever he built momentum down the right flank.

''I always get battered. I'm used to it now and it doesn't bother me at all,'' he said.

The 19-year-old feels his pace can help England if they play on the counter attack against Croatia and expects tough treatment from Slaven's Bilic's men.

''The main thing is to ignore them and get up,'' he said. ''If you don't, they know they have got you in their pocket. You just have to get up give them a little smile and they know you will be at them again.

''That's what you have to do - remind them that you won't go away. I will keep doing the right things and maybe the referees will recognise it.''

Walcott, after famously being taken to the 2006 World Cup by Sven-Goran Eriksson but never used, has an England career that spans three managers and he senses a different atmosphere under Fabio Capello.

''It is more intense and I am enjoying it a bit more,'' he said. ''I am not saying I didn't enjoy it before but there is a buzz around the whole team this year.

''We want to do well for everyone involved with England. It is more enjoyable because everyone is just playing their football. It is when you enjoy it that you play your best.''

Walcott now wants to add a final ball to his other attributes.

''Some people are negative about my final ball,'' he said. ''Sometimes it's not too bad but I am learning and I do practice in training every day.

''I have had quite a few assists as well. The boss knows I'll do it.

''It is like Cristiano Ronaldo, he came to Manchester United in his first year, showed some brilliant tricks and he is 23 and the best player in the world. I am not saying I will be like Ronaldo, I will be myself.''

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