Theo Walcott: Too Much, Too Young, But A Man Who Delivered In Moments

Walcott has announced his retirement from football at 34
15:00, 18 Aug 2023

Theo Walcott announced his retirement at the age of 34 this morning on an episode of The Overlap. It brings to an end a professional career that has spanned 18 years, reached searing highs and experienced savage lows. 

"I'm officially going to be hanging up my boots. It's very scary, I can't lie," said Walcott. 

"It's scary because football's all I've known from the age of 16 or even younger. I want to try new things I never experienced as a kid - I missed out on a lot. I just feel like I want to experience life - things [usually] revolve around football for me."


At 17, he was thrust into the spotlight in the most spectacular way. Seen as the next big thing after his move from Southampton to Arsenal, he was chosen for England’s 2006 World Cup squad by Sven Goran-Eriksson. It was a wild decision for a player who hadn’t even made a Premier League appearance, and one that shocked the entire nation. 

Sure, Walcott was talented, but to select him for England ahead of the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermain Defoe felt like a major risk. Walcott didn’t get any minutes at that World Cup. He didn’t even play at another World Cup in his career, after a disagreement with Fabio Capello saw him miss the 2010 edition when he was in relatively good form. 

For some, he never delivered on his early promise. But a fairer assessment would be of a top-class player who was given too much too soon on the international stage. At Arsenal he continuously delivered over a 12-year career. It wasn’t the most successful period in the club’s history, but he was one of their standout talents throughout Arsene Wenger’s closing years. 

He’s also a player who delivered in moments. His career was hampered by injury later on, but at the peak of his powers he was a player who got the crowd on its feet and kept them there. For England, his highlight came as a 19-year-old in Croatia. After the failure to qualify for Euro 2008, the Three Lions were looking to make an impression under new boss Capello and qualify for the 2010 World Cup.


Walcott stepped up to the mark, hitting a wonderful hat-trick from the right wing in a statement 4-1 win. That’s arguably as good as things got for him in an England shirt, but for Arsenal those moments kept on coming. 

At Stamford Bridge, he was bundled to the ground but still got up to score a fantastic individual goal as Arsenal secured a famous 5-3 victory over Chelsea. He was capable of those sorts of moments. He repeated the trick against Newcastle United at the Emirates in another big win.

A hat-trick at the Madejski Stadium against Reading in the greatest League Cup tie we’ve ever seen helped Arsenal come from 4-0 down to win 7-5. He scored the opening goal in the 2015 FA Cup win and a brace in a North London derby as Arsenal came from two down to win 5-2.

For a few years, he was without a doubt one of the most feared attackers in the Premier League. His pace was unstoppable, while he had more ability on the ball than many give him credit for. 

He now says he wished he hadn’t gone to the 2006 World Cup. It was certainly a tournament that did him far more damage than good, thrusting him into the spotlight before he was naturally ready to shine. It also raised expectations beyond all reasonable projection. 

But what he gave Arsenal and England fans was moments of magic. And it is those moments that have defined him as a footballer, not the expectations unfairly placed upon his shoulders when he was 17. After nearly two decades in the Premier League, he deserves some well-earned time away from the game. 

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