Thursday, September 11, 2008

11 September 2008: Theo

Becky requests more blogs.


Actually, the issue tends to be a lack of desire to hunker down over a keyboard at the beginning or end of an on-site day. And there have been several of those recently - indeed I write this from a hotel in Cincinnati, coming to the end of another couple of weeks in Ohio. But partly as a result of Becky's request, and partly as a result of the result against Croatia, it's time to blog again. And hopefully - and I make no higher commitment than that - it will be able to become a regular item again.

So what to talk about? There's the US election, which continues to bemuse me although I'm getting pretty bored of it all (it's rapidly turning into a sports fan contest). Still, there's a blog in there about the relative and absolute political spectra: a wise professor at Southampton Uni once told me, as a long-haired (ha!) politics undergrad, that the UK Conservative party exists at about the same place on the political spectrum as the US Democratic party. Yes, you read that correctly. Listen to some of Obama's policies: Cameron, Major and in many cases even Thatcher would approve. It's interesting, to say the least.

Or how about the latest Argyle signings? A Belgian international?! Mpenza will make his debut against Norwich on the weekend and by the sounds of it, season ticket sales have re-taken off despite the season already being underway. Let's hope it's not another Rufus Brevett moment. Or Taribo West. Or (gulp) Peter Swan.

Hurricane Ike? About to hit Texas, it's become enormous (700 miles wide) rather than powerful, which is a good thing if you live in Galveston but less good if you live in the wider vicinity. Still, oil prices are still hovering around a hundred dollars a barrel without spiking, and the dollar continues to strengthen against the pound... the dollar-converter says 1.7559, down from two dollars about six weeks ago. Which is good news for me and bad news for anyone reading this in the UK who wants to come and visit our ridiculous apartment.

And then there's clotted cream, Willow Creek, Saints continuing to hemorrhage a million a month and Lance Armstrong coming out of retirement to raise cancer awareness. So many choices (unlike the number of TV channels offered by the hotel of the week) but there's only one word I need to mention, really.


If you don't know who Theo is, read this. Actually, if you don't know who Theo is, that probably won't mean much to you either. Sufficed to say, many commentators are today offering variations on the following statement:
"Well, that's the end of David Beckham's international career."

First saw Theo for the Saints reserves against Eastleigh in pre-season over four years ago. He came on during the second half, around the time that Neil McCan't and Kenwyne Jones (playing in midfield, of course!) were tiring. This little fifteen-year-old came on to the pitch, playing right wing, immensely quick and keen to run the Eastleigh defence ragged (Eastleigh keeper Wayne Shaw was too busy being chubby to notice). The buzz went around the small crowd: "Who is this guy?" He's too small to be Nathan Dyer." "Theo Who?" "Well, he's quicker than Telfer."

Saints went down that season, and Theo didn't play. Come the following season, first game of the year, he was in the team against Wolves (I think it was Wolves? Kev - correct me if I'm wrong). And he was quick, he was skillful, but we've seen that before: Nathan Dyer was already doing that and was two years older. Plenty of pointless wingers have come and gone and we've barely noticed, and that's because they did the following:

Get ball on halfway line from lazy right-back. Run very fast at opposition left-back. Fake inside, go outside. Head towards corner flag. Have opposition left-back and central defender rapidly close in. Attempt skillful Cruyff-type move. End up on ground or, frequently, in row AA.

Saw it coming a mile off with Theo. He got the ball, ran wildly at the opposition defence, headed for the corner flag, in came not two but three defenders, big crush in the corner... and suddenly, brilliantly, out came Theo from the melee with the ball, which he proceeded to cross in for Leon Best or someone to hopelessly screw up a relatively good chance.

Buzz around the ground: "Didn't know he could do that." "Better than Prutton." "Saw him play at Eastleigh once, you know."

Over the weeks that followed, Theo started scoring, continued to run defences ragged and sometimes produced fairly crazy bits of skill that made people wonder not whether he would make it as a professional, but which Premiership giant would come in and snap him up, and how much Saints would get for him. Saw him against Plymouth Argyle with Gloria and my mum present and I remember pointing him out in the warm-up and saying "the little guy there is the best young player I've ever seen in twenty-odd years of watching football. He's even better than Garry Monk. He'll play for England, no question."

So, Arsenal bought him, and I think I remember a news story about Saints recently re-negotiating the deal for cash-now-and-fewer-appearance-based-fees-later. Still, twelve-point-five-million looks pretty much a bargain for a player who is now the youngest ever player to score a hat-trick for England. He's good - the comparison generally given is Thierry Henry, although I think Theo may be a more natural finisher - and he's getting better.

And it's pretty sudden: he played on Saturday (saw it on the internet, and he did pretty well) but at the full-time whistle yesterday I did a Google news search on 'Theo Walcott' and came up with about three thousand hits. As I write this - 24 hours later - I do the same search and the number is 7, 257.

So, whether he has the skill and ability to prove that his game is more than just pace (Tony Daley never quite became what he should have become, did he?) is a question that can only be answered by time. But it's fair to say he's energised the England football world rather like Sarah Palin (who?) seems to be shaking up the election over here.

Difference is, she's not scored a hat-trick for Alaska, has she?

1 comment:

Becky said...

Ha ha, never knew my casual comment on your previous blog would have such an impact! Glad to know someone somewhere listens to me ...

Onto football - we almost didn't bother going to watch the Croatia match after the debacle against Andorra, but I'm glad we decided after dinner to go out and catch the second half. Suddenly England played with desire, with technical ability and, above all, WIDTH! I'm not going to get wildly excited, but that was a fantastic game. And Theo was unbelievably good.

As for Argyle ... rock bottom of the Championship already. DOesn't bode well. Clare and I are meeting up to go to the Preston game next month. Luggy'd better bloody well have started sorting it out by then.