I got up this morning and made my way into work, as normal. As lunch came about, I thought I’d catch up on the day’s Arsenal news. Imagine my joy when I came across a piece on newsnow quoting yourself, a talented young English player once of Arsenal, urging Theo Walcott, another talented young Englishman (younger than you were at the point when Arsenal flogged you), currently of Arsenal, that he might have to leave to secure regular first team football.
We all know how confident you are in your own capabilities – indeed, it was this confidence and arrogance that led you to believe you merited a place in the team ahead of Robert Pires and Fredrik Ljungberg, two players who were, at that point, two of the best wide-men in the Premier League, and ultimately led to you leaving Arsenal for first team football (now was this really because you felt you deserved to be in the team ahead of Pires and Freddie, and thus were being unfairly treated, or was it because, deep down, you didn’t think you had what it takes to force either of those players out of the first eleven?).
Your confidence and arrogance in your own abilities led to you pulling out of the England squad for the U21 finals last summer, earning you criticism from the media, and boos from the England fans. You said it was because you wanted to concentrate on getting picked for the senior England squad. And fair play to you, you’ve earned yourself time on the pitch with the full team.
But I bring into question your judgement. You were impatient for first team football. Arsene, not wanting to hold you back, eventually let you leave for Blackburn Rovers. And, whilst you are doing very well up there, perhaps you left too soon. Another season and I reckon you’d have found yourself easing your way into the Arsenal team, getting more playing time with each game. You could well have been a regular by now (what with the injuries that Tomas Rosicky suffers, lord only knows there’s ample opportunity for a game on one of the flanks for the Arsenal…), And I reckon that England call would have come your way last season (let’s face it, if Keiron Richardson was getting England matches whilst being a bit-part player at ManUre, or out on loan, you would have too, as, in my opinion, you’re a better player than he).
At Arsenal, you’d have also been testing yourself against the best opposition technically in Europe, in the Champions League. Just like Theo is doing at the moment. You may even have seen him playing at the San Siro against AC Milan, and setting up Adebayor’s game-killing goal.
And now you’re urging Theo to think about leaving our club, for regular first team football. You are quoted as having said,
Sometimes you need football, you need games to become better, to put your skills out on the football pitch, if he is not getting the minutes at Arsenal, he’s going to have to look elsewhere.
Your career doesn’t start and end at Arsenal. It can flourish somewhere else.
At the end of the day you want to make a career for yourself.
You want to play football for a start and you want to make money as well.
Well thanks for those pearls of wisdom. Luckily for Theo, he’s still only 18 (soon to be 19), which is – what – 2 years younger than you were when you eventually joined Blackburn. And he’s getting game time. And experience. And he’s developing, and nicely too – he’s just taking a bit of time to get where Arsene wants him to be. But getting there, bit by bit, is what he’s doing. SO at comparative stages of your careers, Theo is ahead of you in development. He’s getting more games than you did, and at an earlier stage.
He’s also ahead of you insofar that he recognises that he still needs to learn, to work hard, and to wait for his chance. He, unlike you, has patience. And it’s these qualities that will eventually make him a better player than you are – the awareness that he is not the finished article, and automatically deserving of all the fame and fortune the world can offer (a trait that, sadly, most young English players seem to be more pre-occupied with – seems that a young English international’s more keen to learn how to get a book deal than he is to improve himself as a player), along with a guaranteed starting berth, just because he is English.
Your comment about wanting to ‘make money’ seems rather revealing. As a good example of he above mentioned points, take Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas. Flamini has had the utmost patience, waiting and waiting, and at times getting overly frustrated, to get a shot in his position. He’s been given the opportunity this season, and grasped it with both hands. Cesc, even though he is one of the best young players in world football, and one of the game’s top midfielders, readily acknowledges that he still has much to learn, and is by no means the finished article. And this is not stopping either of them from earning large sums, and they are doing so through their hardwork, endeavours for the club, and talent – not through the fact they have English nationality.
You have also said in the past that you’re glad you left Arsenal as you were able to ‘toughen up’ as a player, and you may well feel Walcott could do with the same – well, seeing as we tend to be kicked to buggery in many-a-game (ask – say, I dunno – Eduardo if he finds this to be the case…), so this won’t be a problem as I’m sure that many opposition players in the Prem will be trying to boot seven-shades-of-showaddywaddy out of Theo.
All in all, I’ll be happy to give Theo another couple of seasons to become that first-team regular, which would lead him neatly up to the same age of you, at the time of your transfer. He’s getting numerous appearances for Arsenal, and is slowly but surely easing his way into scoring goals as well as creating them. Theo is doing just fine, and he doesn’t need ‘advice’ like yours – he’s a very level-headed individual, and I’m sure is quite capable of figuring this out for himself. Seems like he already has, as he’s spoken numerous times of ‘still learning’ and ‘waiting’.
So please quit with the words of wisdom and worry about your own career. And just think, by the time Theo gets to your age, he’ll be on his way to a major international finals, as an England and Arsenal regular. If the current crop of England Internationals were more ready to concentrate on their footballing career, and recognising the need to continue to learn as a player, instead of earning a huge wad, you might well have been going to one yourself, this summer.
Open Letter to David Bentley