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Walcott tips new stars to shine
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 on what was just his second international start.
With Roy Hodgson's men currently struggling to qualify for the World Cup, the euphoria that surrounded the England camp following that night in Zagreb is severely lacking.
Hodgson's admission that he has a small pool of international class players to choose from has only dampened the expectation around the national team as they head in to the crucial upcoming qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.
But with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend joining up with the squad following impressive performances for their clubs, Walcott is convinced that one of the younger members of the squad can pull a bit of magic out of the bag 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," the Arsenal winger said.
"There are chances there to be taken. If you're good enough the manager is going to pick you. There's a good balance in the team now 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, who are ranked 123rd in the world, 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 star striker Wayne Rooney for the two games, and doubt has been cast over Sturridge's involvement after he sat out training on Tuesday 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," Walcott said.
"But we have got 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."
Listening to Walcott provide a calming influence and talk about the younger players in the squad, it is easy to forget that he is just 24-years-old.
But, with 33 caps to his name, Walcott is now certainly one of the elder statesmen of a relatively inexperienced squad.
That experience shines through with the way that he carries himself around the squad.
His confident and content manner is also down to the way that he has started the season.
This time last term Walcott cut a frustrated figure at the Emirates Stadium, thanks mainly due to Arsene Wenger's reluctance to play him as a main striker - the role he then preferred - and the player's reluctance to sign a contract.
But Walcott 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 had a difficult start to last season with all the contract situation but that's all sorted now and the next step is to be a bit more consistent with England.
"I want my form with Arsenal to hit England and I think it's starting to happen."
As well as Sturridge, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere sat out training at St George's Park on Tuesday as he recovers from a stomach bug.
Steven Caulker and Jermain Defoe only had a light session, but they hope to join in with the rest of the squad on Wednesday.