So the World Cup worm has turned for Theo Walcott, transforming him from unwanted selection four years ago into the plain unwanted today.
Doubtless there will have been times recently where that time in Germany, where he himself admitted that “I didn’t belong,” will have felt like a distant memory—yet today it will feel all too familiar as he must watch another of football’s greatest carnivals pass-by before his eyes.
It was a shock, especially given that Capello has been one of Walcott’s greatest admirers—persevering with the youngster despite indifferent form, and insisting in March that he was the nation’s “best talent,” but even Capello reached the point of no return with him.
The issue with Walcott is that his stunning hat trick in Croatia two years on remains the highlight of a career, which has shown signs of stalling.
His cause has not been helped by injuries, which his manager Arsene Wenger warned would happen after he opted into England under 21’s tournament last summer and ended up burnt out.
Yet look beyond the obvious, and there have been little obvious signs of development in terms of that “footballing brain” pundits have been asking for.
All too often, the end product required at the highest-level remains sadly lacking, and he all-too often is unable to break the shackles of the close attention defenders pay him.
Ultimately this, as shown painfully clearly in his poor showings against Mexico and Japan, have cost him his place.
Whether the likes of Aaron Lennon or Shaun Wright-Phillips are capable of achieving more than Walcott would have in South Africa is debatable, yet Capello’s ruthlessness is a sign for Walcott that he must prove himself once again.
So now, he must spend the summer contemplating how he can regain that form which made him such a tantalising prospect for Capello in the first place.
As he showed against Croatia, and on brief occasions for Arsenal, he offers a potent mixture of searing pace, skill, and more importantly, finishing—something which Capello himself has spotted as being a key component in his England setup.
And while such a snub will inevitably hurt in the short-term, it may act as the wake-up call he needs to reignite a career which has somewhat stalled.
While Chris Waddle’s recent criticisms of him hit the headlines, it held some stark truths.
He said: "I've never seen any difference in Walcott since he was at Southampton and broke into the team at a very young age. I've never seen him develop.
“He just doesn't understand the game for me— where to be running, when to run inside a full back, when to just play a one-two. It's all off the cuff. I just don't think he's got a football brain and he's going to have problems
“I just don't know whether he studies the game, learns the game, or what. He's at a great club where they play fantastic football week-in, week-out, and I'm just surprised he's never developed his game."
While Walcott, one of football’s nice guys, may not have taken kindly to the criticisms—it was obvious from his recent work with David Beckham, that it was something he has taken time to address.
Yet while some of Walcott’s competitors for spots in Capello’s final squad, like Aaron Lennon or Adam Johnson, or even younger Arsenal teammates like Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere appear to play the game with a natural ease, to Walcott all-too-often the game appears a struggle to master.
It is in this regard where Walcott must really develop. Having natural pace to burn, as Pep Guardiola feared in their Champions League quarter final, is one thing but how he chooses to use it will define how he develops.
In this regard both Wenger, and a lesser extent Capello will play key roles in helping him discover the game, yet it is up to Walcott to find it for himself, only then will his confidence, and hopefully his form reappear.
Should he manage this, as he has so briefly, yet gloriously on occasions in his short career so far, then perhaps his snub from England’s World Cup squad will be remembered in the long-term as a key point in his development.
But the latest move from Capello should be a wake-up call for Theo Walcott, telling him that for all the promise shown over his short career thus far, the time for him to deliver has arrived.
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