Theo Walcott has tipped the newest crop of England talent to make a name for themselves this week – just as he did five years ago against Croatia.
Two years after being included in England’s 2006 World Cup squad, Walcott scored a stunning hat-trick against the Croatians in only his second international start.
With Roy Hodgson’s men struggling to qualify for the World Cup, the euphoria of that night in Zagreb is lacking as they head into the crucial qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.
But, with Daniel Sturridge, Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend called up, Walcott is convinced one of the younger members can produce a bit of magic in the coming week.
“I came in at such a young age and I got a hat-trick against Croatia – anyone could do that against Moldova and Ukraine,” he said. “If you’re good enough the manager is going to pick you. There’s a good balance in the team and that has started to show at Wembley. It’s only going to be positive when you see these youngsters coming through.
“These guys are improving and they are playing really well for their clubs. You want to see the best young talents come through very early and they will only improve.”
England should have little trouble swatting aside Moldova at Wembley on Friday but the same cannot be said for the match in Kiev four days later.
With qualifying entering the final stages, the Ukrainians are just one point behind England, who trail Group H leaders Montenegro by two points.
Hodgson is without Wayne Rooney for the two games, and doubt has been cast over Sturridge after he sat out training yesterday with a thigh injury. Walcott is sure England will be fine for goals, however.
“Wayne is an absolutely fantastic talent. He has had it for so many years and it’s a shame he’s not here,” he said. “But we have some players here that will now have the opportunity to come in and show what they can do and I think we will be absolutely fine.
“Hopefully Sturridge can shake off his injury and Rickie [Lambert] and Danny [Welbeck] have started off the season well.”
This time last term, Walcott cut a frustrated figure mainly due to Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to play him as a main striker for Arsenal – the role he then preferred – and the player’s reluctance to sign a contract.
But he has flourished since committing his future to Arsenal and he now wants to take that form in to the upcoming internationals. He added: “I have been very happy with my form. I am enjoying my football. I want my form with Arsenal to hit England and I think it’s starting to happen.”