Henry’s advice can only make me better – Walcott

Theo Walcott is benefiting from the best 90 minutes of his career – spent in a side room at Arsenal’s London Colney training complex chatting to Thierry Henry.

England's Theo Walcott during the training session

The French forward and Arsenal cult hero returned to his former club last month for a spot of training to keep fit before returning to Major League Soccer duties with New York Red Bulls.

Walcott would have liked Henry to have stayed around a bit longer.

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But he still made his mark, with words of wisdom that could fire the 23-year-old to even more memorable feats this season.

“It’s probably the best hour and half I’ve ever had,” said Walcott.

“I just went up to him. I didn’t expect it to be that long, but I am glad it was.

“You learn a lot when you talk to someone with that much experience.

“It was about all sorts of stuff and maybe one day I’ll come out with it.

“But it meant a lot and it’s only going to make you get better.”

The conversation was another significant event during a season in which Walcott has made the transition from reckless youth – Chris Waddle once cruelly said the winger did not have a footballing brain – to mature individual, worthy of the 30 caps he has now amassed.

Even Walcott’s features have changed, the scar running right across his eye the result of a weekend confrontation with Stoke.

“I think it was (Andy) Wilkinson – it must have been an accident, might have been hand and nails,” he said.

“He stopped me – quite a lot. But there were loads of things happening off the ball which the linesmen and referees didn’t see.

“A few people have said it makes me look a little bit harder.

“But I honestly don’t believe that because I am the biggest softy of them all.”

Manager Arsene Wenger has remarked that Walcott has become a man this season.

He has also become something of a predator, bagging 11 goals in the Premier League, making him, alongside Rickie Lambert, the top English-born scorer in the top tier.

In addition, he has pocketed a lucrative new three-and-a-half year contract. All after Wenger acceded to his request for an orthodox forward berth.

“I didn’t expect it to go as well as it has,” said Walcott.

“I thought it would take a few games to get used to it because I hadn’t played there for seven years.

“I have done it in training, but matches are totally different.

“Of course there were nerves and a lot of pressure, but when you are demanding to play in a certain role you need to perform.”

Yet Walcott still did not feel completely free, not with that contract situation remaining unresolved and speculation rising on almost a daily basis as the countdown to the end of the season went on.

“It might not have shown, but there were definitely times when it was putting me off my game,” said Walcott.

“I was not starting a lot of games at the start of the season, but when I got back in the team, it was time to get it sorted.

“The last three weeks were probably the hardest.

“It was on my mind too much. Luckily I coped with it all, which shows I have a strong character.”

Walcott may get a chance to play in attack for England tomorrow if yesterday’s training session at 
St George’s Park is anything to go by.

For, with Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge ruled out through injury, Walcott partnered Wayne Rooney in attack even though England’s 2012 top scorer Danny Welbeck was also among the 11 outfield players who completed yesterday’s workout.

“If the manager decides to pick us, it could work,” said Walcott. “I am probably slightly quicker than Wayne off the mark. I am a runner, whilst Wayne likes to drop and can see any ball. He is something special and definitely in top form.”

Meanwhile in England’s defence, Glen Johnson admits he is comfortable in his role as a senior statesman with England and Liverpool – and is glad to be a right-back rather than left-back given the form of Ashley Cole for his country during the past decade.

Johnson has been in some of the most consistent form of his career for England during the past 12 months and held off the strong challenge of Tottenham’s Kyle Walker. The 28-year-old has won 44 caps and is happy to impart advice to any of the crop of young talent emerging under head coach Roy Hodgson.

But Johnson knows he is fortunate his right foot and not his left has been his main strength after the form shown by Cole who will win his 100th cap in tomorrow’s friendly international with Brazil at Wembley.

Johnson said: “It’s great to be part of the set-up and around some of the lads I am surrounded by. People say younger players coming in are now looking up to me. That was always going to come, to be honest.

“There are a lot of younger lads than me knocking around the squad at the moment so it’s nice if you can help. They will want to be in your position one day so it’s a nice feeling. Do I offer help and advice? More so at Liverpool, because you’re together every day and you feel a bit more need to do that.

“With England it is kind of short and sharp, but you speak to people when you need to.”

Johnson insists he is more concerned at his performances than worrying about the threat from the likes of Walker to his position.

Cole will become the seventh England player to chalk up 100 caps and Johnson said: “He has been fantastic for many years, for club and country.

“He has done some fantastic things and deserves to get this 100th cap.

“I am glad I am a right-back otherwise I would not have had as many caps.”