England

Earlier this year, Theo Walcott told World Soccer Magazine that his main priority is the World Cup. Faced between a choice of Arsenal winning a trophy or England winning the World Cup, he chose the latter. As an Arsenal fan, it could have rubbed me the wrong way but it didn’t. Every player dreams of winning the World Cup, an achievement that is usually possible through the luck of being born in the right country and being part of a proper generation of players.

Theo has not been selected for the current senior side, but that’s only because he’s coming back from injury. Theo means well, but sometimes I feel as though he needs to dig his heels in at Arsenal first before dreaming of such glory. After all, if it wasn’t for Wenger, he wouldn’t have made the 2006 World Cup, a decision that is viewed as a monumental failure for Sven-Goran Eriksson. Many wrote that Theo had actually trained well for England, but Sven’s refusal to play him probably dented the experience for him somewhat.

Nevertheless, Theo, probably against Wenger’s wishes, played for the England U-21 team over the summer. One would expect a player who is close to locking down a first team spot for Arsenal would dominate an U-21 tournament, but he did not. Strictly down to Stuart Pearce trying to inflate his managerial value, Walcott’s participation in the tournament underscored the real failure in England’s footballing roots.

Simply put, England care too much about winning. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but England would rather win the wrong way than lose while improving. Obviously, in the highest levels, winning is the be all, end all. But this is a U-21 tournament we’re talking about. The real goal of youth squads are to produce players for the First Team. And in this case, Theo is clearly a full England international.

That kind of mentality lingers through the English mindset. They would rather have kids play route one football so they can win, rather than play football with the idea of enhancing their natural football instincts and technique. People who advocate the former idea spout the worthless rhetoric that “fostering the winning mentality” is necessary. That is true, but it’s not relevant on the lower levels.

Thus, perhaps due to his participation (or perhaps not), Theo has only featured as a sub in one Arsenal game this year. Granted, he looked sharp and took his goal well, but he must understand that playing well for Arsenal will result in everything he desires. Wenger has tutored him well, and Theo must understand this.

Today, Theo and Kieran Gibbs turned out for the England U-21. This time around Wenger gave his blessing because Theo needs the games. He performed well, setting up Gibbs for a goal, but went off at half time with a dead leg. That’s the other thing Theo needs to get over, his frailty.

Yesterday, Rooney joked that he was rooting for his former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the nation of Portugal to fail in their quest for qualification. Personally, it seemed like it was just a joke, but if I were Rooney, I’d want to meet them in the World Cup for real revenge. That was a small matter. More interesting to me was Rooney openly admitting that he committed a red card challenge in the last World Cup. English journalists were vehement that Rooney didn’t know what he was doing. Wrong! He knew exactly what he was doing, but Ronaldo’s “wink” took all of the furore off Rooney’s back. Another example of protecting England’s golden boy, and yet another example of England failing to understand that it’s more important to put Rooney in line to prevent future outbreaks than protecting their own by overplaying a trivial action by Cristiano Ronaldo.

In today’s Guardian, a journalist wrote that England lacks a player as cerebral as Cesc Fabregas. I think that’s undeniably true, but fear not England, the team you hate the most may produce the most cerebral English football brain since Paul Gascoigne. That player very well might be Jack Wilshere, a player who was educated the right way.

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