Rooney keen to keep lid on Walcott hype
Wayne Rooney has warned England fans not to put the weight of expectation on the shoulders of Theo Walcott after the teenager's stunning hat-trick in Croatia.
Rooney burst onto the international scene himself in 2003 and was billed as the player to bring success to England, and the same could happen to Walcott following his Zagreb treble.
While Walcott was establishing himself at the Maksimir Stadium as the nation's next great hope, Rooney put in arguably one of his most mature and complete performances as the baton was passed to the next England youngster.
"Too many times players get made out to be the saviour of England,'' said Rooney. "We need to keep working as a team, that is the main thing. If we can help him then that'll be great. Hopefully he can help us win.''
Walcott was famously taken to the 2006 World Cup but was not used by Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was coach at the time.
Two years later and Fabio Capello has given the 19-year-old his chance, giving him his first starts by selecting him against Andorra and Croatia in qualifiers in the last week.
"From getting thrown into the World Cup without playing in the Premier League, then not playing, it was obviously going to be difficult,'' added Rooney, who rates Walcott as the quickest player he has played with.
"After that so much was expected of him. He's had a couple of years to get ready and you see in his games for Arsenal that he's playing well and against Andorra he showed glimpses of what he can do. Against Croatia he was brilliant.''
Walcott had replaced David Beckham on the right flank but the former England skipper held no grudge and offered guidance and encouragement to the youngster who is now seen as his successor.
"Theo has proved, even for Arsenal before this game, that he is a quality player,'' Beckham said. "The speed he has is incredible. I don't think I've played with someone who has that speed.
"He's a level-headed lad as well and won't get carried away, he'll enjoy it. He's at the right club at Arsenal and has the right manager in Arsene Wenger.
"He can put the frighteners up any defender, whoever he plays against, he's that quick it's frightening.''
Skipper John Terry feels Walcott also contributed defensively, adding: "He did a lot of chasing back for the team, making 40 to 50-yard runs and he would win the ball back for us. Defensively and attacking he did a great job for us.''
Walcott himself insists he will keep his feet on the ground.
"I'm just improving every training session, that's all I can do,'' he said. "I know what people will be saying, but I will just ignore it all. It's the way I have been brought up.
"Obviously the family have looked after me and all the coaches. They keep my feet on the ground and I won't change at all.''