Flashback to 2010 when Theo Walcott was criticised for his performance in England’s 3-1 victory over Egypt. The footballing genius that is Chris Waddle (that’s right, the man who pronounces the word ‘penalty’ as ‘pelanty’) asserted his belief that Walcott didn’t have a ‘football brain.’
'People keep saying to me, 'Oh he's young and he'll learn',' said Waddle. 'I keep thinking, 'Fabregas has learned and he's young, Rooney has learned… they all read the game so well'. I just don't think he's got a football brain and he's going to have problems,' he added.
There you have it, the then 21-year-old winger had his dreams torn to shreds – his hopes of being as good a winger as… erm… Chris Waddle… were in pieces as the nation slammed down the hammer of their judgement that he was not intelligent enough to play football.
England is well-known for it’s abundance of intelligent and insightful minds and charismatic personalities – the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Alan Shearer and the new star on the scene, Arsenal colleague Jack Wilshere who enlightened us all with his comments this week that England players should be English. Wow.
We have pundits like Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp now – long gone are the days of Andy Gray and Richard Keys – we have people who can articulate themselves like Jamie Carragher and, again, Chris Waddle, whose pronunciation of the word ‘Arsenal’ is interpreted more like Basel without the ‘B’.
This week, however, Harry Redknapp, the man who taught Jamie everything he knows, has been talking up Theo Walcott – well, actually he has been talking up his book launch but, nonetheless, he is adamant that Arsel’s 24-year-old winger does have a ‘football brain’ after all.
'People talk about him as if he hasn't got the football brain of a top player but I think he's a very clever runner off the ball. He killed us with Arsenal in my last season at Tottenham by bending his run and I think he is a player who knows precisely what he is about,' Harry said.
Walcott is currently out injured but his form last term was nothing short of top notch – he was Arsel’s top scorer with 21 goals in all competitions – not only has he proven he has a football brain but via his A Levels and acceptance to university, he has also proven he has a brain which, in football, is something very rare indeed. It turns out he can in fact read the game and, unlike Chris Waddle, he can also actually read.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald