Tougher and wiser Walcott ready for England
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott believes he is now ready to become a consistent threat with England after toughening up over a summer off.
Walcott, 21, was not selected in Fabio Capello's final 23-man squad for the World Cup in South Africa but the pacey wide-man has started the Premier League season in top form - scoring four goals in three games.
The former Southampton starlet realises he must keep his pace if he is to make maximum use of his abilities but the increasingly physical nature of the international arena means Walcott must also bulk up if he is to withstand the batterings he is likely to get.
"I have been going to the gym. I don't want to slow myself down but there were occasions when I was 17 or 18 if I got kicked that I probably would have stayed down," Walcott said ahead of Friday's opening Euro 2012 qualifier with Bulgaria at Wembley.
"Now, if I do get kicked, I just get up from it. That is when the left-back thinks 'I am going to have a torrid time today'."
Walcott would be rather foolish not to have taken the hint from Capello's decision to leave him out of the South Africa expedition, no matter how the move looks in retrospect.
In 2006 he did go to Germany despite never having played a Premier League game, which the former Southampton star admits it was a bad call by Sven-Goran Eriksson.
This time around he paid the price for a succession of injuries which even Walcott admits hampered his form in the vital latter weeks of the season.
"Of course I was angry," he said. "You want to play in the biggest competitions in the world. You want to play against the best. And you want to play for England. But I couldn't point fingers at anyone. I had to blame myself because the form wasn't there at the end of the season."
Given how the summer transpired, it could be argued Walcott was the one who benefited. After all, he is not tarnished the way others have been.
"I still wanted to be there," he said. "I am an England fan like everyone else. I wanted the lads to do well. I had mates playing. It's one of the biggest competitions anyway."