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The Toe Poke

Walcott desperate for starting place against Sweden

Theo Walcott is ready to take his anger out on Sweden on Friday after a European Under-21 Championships where he has played rather less than he would have liked and expected. Reports in UK newspapers suggest that Walcott has had a falling-out with U21 boss Stuart Pearce. Walcott was taken off after 45 minutes of their tournament opener, then was on the bench for an hour of the victory against Spain after joining the campaign against the best wishes of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Sweden await in the semi-finals in Gothenburg, with Walcott still upset and looking to make his mark again. "Against Spain, I took it out on the pitch and let my feet do the talking," he said.

"People probably saw me around and about and I wasn't too happy obviously because I came here to play. If you are not disappointed there is something wrong, you're just here for the social.

"You've got to be angry coming on the pitch. You don't want to be too angry and get sent off but hopefully I'll be at it on Friday."

Wenger was strongly opposed to his player travelling straight after a seniors' World Cup double-header, then the 20-year-old found himself in the cold despite pushing for his own inclusion.

"That was one of the messages I did get across," Walcott said. "I just wanted to be shown a little bit of support for being here.

"But it was the manager's decision and it worked out to be the right one because we won the game in the end."

It is hardly the attitude expected of player with a reputation of being too nice for his own good.

On the other hand, Walcott put himself in contention despite fears of burnout ahead of next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

"I had four months out injured last season, so it hasn't really affected me," he added. "The boss will know when I'm tired and I'm not. On the pitch you don't think about it."

Walcott also missed the under-21 tournament with a shoulder injury two years ago in Holland when England were knocked out on penalties after a marathon shoot-out.

He said: "I remember Stuart calling me and telling me to go and have the operation because there would be plenty more tournaments to come. I wouldn't say I owed them, I just wanted to be here."


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