Ian Wright suggests early England call-up held back this Arsenal star's development

Ian Wright

The former Gunners striker believes Theo Walcott was brought into England senior action too soon.

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has told the Sun that Theo Walcott's career has been hampered by being introduced to senior England action at too young an age, and urged that the same mistake must not be made with current teenage talents such as Manchester United's Marcus Rashford.

Walcott was famously named in Sven Goran-Eriksson's squad for the 2006 World Cup as a 17-year-old for Southampton, despite having only 13 senior club appearances in the Championship to his name.

The Gunners man is still England's youngest-ever player, and hit a famous hat-trick against Croatia two years after his first call-up to become the youngest man to score a hat-trick for the Three Lions.

However, there is an argument that the now-27-year-old has failed to kick on his career as expected at either club or international level since his early days, and Eriksson's decision has been repeatedly questioned in the decade since.

Now, with stars such as Manchester United's latest teenage sensation Rashford being tipped for a possible senior call-up despite having only ever played for England's Under-16s and Under-18s sides, Wright has warned against a repeat of Walcott's situation.

The former striker, who scored nine goals in 33 caps for England, told the Sun: "I think we’ve rushed him [Rashford] – we’ve done it before with Theo. He was 17 so was even younger. Theo missed out on Under-17s, Under-19s, Under-21s football.

"He was sat on the bench in the World Cup and from that day to this we still haven’t got anything out of Theo except the hat-trick in Croatia.

"I feel for him as he should have learned a lot of football in that time but he didn’t get the opportunity to do it."

Walcott was named in Roy Hodgson's squad for the upcoming international friendlies with Germany and the Netherlands last week, a decision which was met with confusion even from Arsenal fans after the forward's uninspiring performances at club level this season.

The 27-year-old has scored eight goals in 35 matches for the Gunners this season but has generally failed to match the level of display he has managed in the past.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Rashford has netted five goals in his first eight senior appearances for United since making his senior debut less than a month ago.

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