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Hat-trick hero Walcott calls time on Beckham era PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 September 2008

AFP, ZAGREB - Theo Walcott's stunning hat-trick against Croatia may have ensured that David Beckham will never make another start for England.

The Arsenal teenager was handed his slot on the right at the expense of 33-year-old Beckham and manager Fabio Capello's judgement was vindicated by his three-goal display in a memorable 4-1 win.
 
Beckham did come on in the closing minutes of the match to win his 105th cap, moving him level with Billy Wright as the joint fourth most capped player for his country.
 
Four more cameo appearances would take Beckham past Bobby Moore's 108 caps and make him the most capped outfield player in the country's history (goalkeeper Peter Shilton holds the overall record with 125 caps).
 
But the LA Galaxy midfielder's chances of reclaiming a starting spot look slim, partly as a result of some advice he gave Walcott ahead of Wednesday night's match.
 
"Becks told me to be a bit more greedy in the box, then afterwards he said I was probably too greedy!" Walcott said.
 
"He has been absolutely brilliant to me and he just gave me so much confidence. He's given me praise and it's unbelievable coming from David. I watched him when I was younger. To train with him, to be around him, to talk to him just spurs me on and gives me a big lift."
 
Walcott also revealed that he had played the match with one stud missing.
 
"I played with one less stud, my boot went to bits and I was going to change but the boots wouldn't have suited me," said Walcott. "The lads said they were glad.
 
"The whole team were brilliant, we showed to the whole of England how strong we are. Hopefully we'll carry on doing that."
 
Walcott, who was plucked from the Arsenal reserves to join England's 2006 World Cup squad but then failed to see a minute of action in Germany, was showered with praise by both managers.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic described him as "lightening quick" and a "great finisher."
 
"He scored two goals from not so easy positions, he just hit the corner," Bilic said. "And it is hard to mark him. That is why he is an England international and why he is at Arsenal."
 
Capello said he had always intended to play Walcott in a match many felt would be better suited to Beckham's greater experience.
 
"I decided to put Theo in the first eleven because of what I saw against Andorra and also during training," the Italian said. "Psychologically and physically he is in fantastic shape at this moment and he is very dangerous for defenders of the other team."
 
Despite his praise, Capello pleaded for Walcott's performance to be placed in an appropriate context.
 
"I said after Andorra that he can play fantastic but he will play not the same level all the games. He is very interesting, very young but we have to help him.
 
"This evening is fantastic but when he play not so good we have to support him - this is very important for the young players."
 
Walcott insisted he would take the praise that is bound to come his way in his stride.
 
"I'm not going to get ahead of myself. I will continue to take each game as it comes and just try to keep on improving.
 
"I know what people will be saying, but I will just ignore it all. It's the way I have been brought up. Obviously the family have looked after me and all the coaches. They keep my feet on the ground and I won't change at all."
 
He added: "I didn't play with any fear. You just have to get out there and put them on the back foot. If you do that teams will drop off and then there is so much space.
 
"The whole team did that and we took our chances. Hopefully we will take the positives from this and take it into the next ones."

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