Theo Walcott retirement: Ex-Arsenal man’s best career moments

Theo Walcott has announced his immediate retirement from football at the age of 34. A career that saw Walcott represent Southampton, Arsenal and Everton peaked early, but a decline in recent years sees a player that was once English football’s great new hope hang up his boots at a relatively young age. We’ll take a look back at Theo Walcott’s best career moments.

Unsurprisingly, given the trajectory of his career, many of Walcott’s best moments were early on. He broke a host of records as a teenager, becoming Southampton’s youngest ever player at the age of just 16 years and 143 days, not long after he had left school. His immediate impression at Championship level meant international recognition and a big transfer would soon follow.

3 Goals in 3 Games as a 16 year old for Southampton

Theo Walcott was making headlines from an early age and it was a goalscoring run in October 2005 that really announced his arrival as a player with serious potential. The 16 year old netted goals in three successive Championship games against Leeds, Millwall and Stoke City with the final match being his full home debut for recently relegated Southampton.

The teenager was exciting all who watched him with his electric pace and ability to run with the football. With Saints stumbling towards a disappointing mid-table finish in their first season back in the second tier, it was no surprise when a big Premier League club came calling with Arsenal signing the player in January 2006 for an initial £5m that eventually reached £9.1m.

England’s youngest ever international

Despite not having made his Premier League debut, Sven-Göran Eriksson made the surprise decision to include Walcott in his squad for the 2006 World Cup. It was a call-up that divided opinion and despite injury problems for England’s other strikers, Walcott did not ultimately play in the tournament.

Walcott did though feature in a friendly win over Hungary in the build-up to the World Cup in Germany. In doing so, he became England’s youngest ever international at the age of just 17 years and 75 days.

It’s a record that stands to this day with Walcott marginally younger than both Wayne Rooney and Jude Bellingham were when they represented the Three Lions for the first time as 17 year olds.

A first Arsenal goal in a Cup Final

More records and plaudits came the following season with Walcott making his Premier League debut in Arsenal’s first ever match at the Emirates Stadium against Aston Villa. However he’d have to wait until the following February to net his first Gunners goal which came in the 2007 League Cup Final against Chelsea.

Walcott put a youthful Arsenal side ahead in the 12th minute in Cardiff but Chelsea came back to win a bad-tempered London derby which saw three players sent off and Blues captain John Terry knocked unconscious by Abou Diaby.

Hat-trick vs Croatia

With Steve McClaren replacing Eriksson after the 2006 World Cup, the new England manager took a different strategy towards Walcott by relegating him to the England U21 side for the duration of his reign.

A shock failure to qualify for Euro 2008 saw Fabio Capello come in for McClaren and Walcott was reintroduced to the senior squad at the start of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. It wouldn’t be long before he made a big impact with a stunning hat-trick sending England on their way to a thumping 4-1 win away to group rivals Croatia.

However, as was often the case with Walcott, his inspired showing in Zagreb didn’t prove a sign of things to come on the international stage. In fact, it would be nearly four years before he’d score again for England with Capello not taking him to the 2010 World Cup, a decision the Italian later claimed was a mistake.

A North London derby brace

By the early 2010’s, Theo Walcott was starting to deliver more consistently in an Arsenal shirt making a career high 32 Premier League starts during the 2011/12 season. That campaign also saw him produce one of his most memorable Arsenal displays with a North London derby brace as Arsene Wenger’s side fought back from 2-0 down to hammer Spurs 5-2 at the Emirates.

Still only in his early 20’s, Walcott netted 8 times in the Premier League that season and went even better with 14 the following year. However persistent injury problems and particularly a bad ACL injury in 2014 plagued much of the rest of his career in North London.

An FA Cup Final goal and a trophy

There was still time for a few more moments to cherish and nearly a decade on from his explosion as a very talented teenager at Southampton, Walcott finally got his hands on silverware in 2015.

In the FA Cup Final against Aston Villa, Arsenal were in control of the game but couldn’t find a breakthrough until Walcott fired past Shay Given in the 40th minute. The floodgates opened after that with the Gunners going on to win the game 4-0.

Another FA Cup winners medal followed in 2017, although Walcott was an unused substitute in the Final and by January 2018, his 12 year stay at Arsenal was over with a transfer to Everton agreed.

While Walcott was still a useful asset for an underwhelming Toffees side, it was clear by this point that he was past his peak as a footballer and after an unsuccessful return to Southampton, culminating in relegation last season, the 34 year old retires having made more than 500 club appearances and with 47 caps for his country.