Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott is an English winger/striker who was born in Stanmore on 16th March 1989. Walcott began his professional career at Southampton having spent six months at Swindon at the age of 11. He rejected an offer from Chelsea to sign for Saints in 2000. Theo was the talk of the club for years, with big things expected of the youngster who signed a sponsorship deal with Nike at the age of 14. He was part of the Saints youth side that won the 2005 Academy League Championship, and reached the final of the FA Youth Cup.

Walcott made his debut for Southampton on 6th August 2005 as a substitute in a 0-0 draw with Wolves, becoming the clubs youngster ever player at 16 years and 143 days. He made a terrific first impression, causing all sorts of problems with his skill and blistering pace. Theo was used sparingly from the bench in the weeks that followed, as manager Harry Redknapp looked to bring him along slowly. Following a succession of draws however, Walcott was given his first start for a Southampton side that was struggling for goals on 18th October 2005. It was a big gamble by boss Redknapp, but one that paid off as Theo scored Saints only goal in a 2-1 defeat at Leeds. He kept his place in the team, and scored in matches against Millwall and Stoke. Theo scored one of the best goals seen at St Marys during 2005/06 on 11th December in a 1-0 win over Luton, lobbing Hatters keeper Dean Brill from a difficult angle. On the very same day he was crowned BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. He scored his final goal for the club on 7th January 2006 in a 4-3 FA Cup victory over MK Dons. Theo made his last appearance for the club on 14th January 2006 in a 1-0 defeat at QPR.

Walcott signed for Arsenal on 20th January 2006 for an initial fee of £5,000,000. The deal could have potential landed Southampton £12,000,000 depending on certain clauses, but the cash strapped club instead opted to settle for a final fee of £9,100,000 in April 2008, as they desperately needed the money upfront. Theo spent the first few months of his Highbury career on the sidelines, failing to make a single appearance for The Gunners in 2005/06. He was a surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson's 2006 World Cup squad, ahead of more established names like Jermaine Defoe and Darren Bent. Walcott appeared for England B in a friendly with Belarus on May 25th 2006, and won his first full cap five days later in a 3-1 win over Hungary, becoming England's youngest ever senior player at 17 years and 75 days. The Arsenal wide man didn't play a single minute of the tournament in Germany however.

Walcott made his Arsenal debut on 19th August 2006 in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. Arsene Wenger gave Theo plenty of opportunities during 2006/07, although he selected him carefully to avoid potential burnout. On 15th August 2006 Walcott became the youngest player to score at England U21 level when he netted against Moldova. He scored his first goal for The Gunners on 25th February 2007 in the Carling Cup Final defeat to Chelsea. Theo's 11th minute goal had put Arsenal in front, but Chelsea fought back with a brace from Didier Drogba.

Theo played a bigger role for Arsene Wenger's side during the 2007/08, establishing himself as a first team regular at Ashburton Grove. Walcott was involved with the Arsenal side who went nearly half a season unbeaten, and spent much of the season challenging at the top before falling at the final hurdle to Manchester United. He scored his first European goals on 23RD October 2007, when he hit a double in a 7-0 thrashing of Slavia Prague. Theo won over Arsenal fans with his first goal in a North London Derby on 9th January in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham. The Gunners campaign fell to pieces after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham in February, a game which saw Walcott grab both goals for Arsenal. He concluded the season with goals at Derby and Sunderland.

Walcott started the 2008/09 season in fantastic fashion, scoring in a 4-0 Champions League qualifier against Twente. On 10th September 2008 he scored an incredible hatrick for England in a 4-1 win at Croatia. He netted his first in the Premiership on 18th October 2008 in a 3-1 win over Everton. In April 2009 he scored in three matches in a row, against Wigan, Villarreal and finally in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea. Three days after that Chelsea match, Walcott ran half the length of the field to set up one of Andre Arshavin's four goals in a 4-4 draw at Liverpool.

Walcott's 2009/10 season was interrupted by injury. He had to wait until October to make his first appearance, and started just 15 times. The highlight of Theo's campaign came on 31st March in a Champions League tie with Barcelona at The Emirates. The former Saints man scored almost instantly after coming on and helped The Gunners to a 2-2 draw, having previously been 2-0 down. Walcott's performances came under criticism from pundits and fan alike around this time. Former England star Chris Waddle said he hadn't progressed and "Doesn't understand the game". Walcott was left out of Fabio Capello's 2010 World Cup squad.

Walcott had his best season to date for The Gunners in 2010/11. He opened the campaign with a hatrick over Blackpool on August 21st, and scored another goal a week later in a 2-1 win at Blackburn. Those early displays won him the EA Sports Player of the Month for August. Walcott scored 13 times in all competitions as Arsenal struggled to keep pace with the rest in the final months, eventually finishing 4th. He put in a world class performance in a 3-1 victory over Chelsea on 27th December, and scored in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Tottenham on 20th April.