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Oct, 29, 2008

Walcott "willing to die" for England cause

Arsenal's Theo Walcott has said he would be willing ''to die for England'' and play for the Under-21s in next summer's European Championships in Sweden, words and sentiments which could send a shiver down Arsene Wenger's spine.

England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce has made no secret of his desire to take the Gunners forward to the finals and Walcott insists he would be more than happy to play, telling the Daily Telegraph: ''If you get called for England, you would die for England.''

The 19-year-old made his first major impact on the international scene in September when he scored a hat-trick in England's 4-1 World Cup qualifying defeat of Croatia and Walcott now feels like an integral part of the national set-up, unlike after his shock call-up by Sven-Goran Eriksson for the 2006 World Cup ended without any involvement in Germany.

''It feels like I'm more part of the squad now,'' said Walcott, but insists he would not be averse to helping the Under-21s despite his progress in the senior side.

While Walcott's passion for his country will no doubt be seen as an admirable quality by the Arsenal manager, Wenger might prefer that one of his key players take the summer off to recuperate.

If Walcott competes in Sweden next summer and, as is expected, is part of the 2010 World Cup campaign the jewel in Wenger's crown could be at risk of burnout.

Walcott has been in scintillating form so far this season scoring three goals for Arsenal in the Premier League and the Champions League which has silenced critics who felt his game lacked an end result following his high-profile move to the Gunners from Southampton.

However, Wenger will be pleased to hear that despite Walcott's growing reputation the former Southampton player is determined to make the most of his career, refusing to be sidetracked by celebrity.

''My career is short, I know that. You don't want to waste it, you want to reach your top level,'' said Walcott. ''I don't go to nightclubs. They're not for me - it doesn't interest me whatsoever. I don't see the point.''

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