Injury-hit Walcott is left out by England
When Fabio Capello confirmed on Sunday that he had decided which of the 23 players with him for the two-week altitude training camp in Austria would remain by his side for tomorrow evening's flight to South Africa, it was largely assumed Walcott would be among them.
After all, the Arsenal flyer had been included for the friendly against Egypt at Wembley in March and retained his place for the victories over Mexico and Japan over the past eight days.
As it turned out, the reason why Walcott was one of only two players – Wayne Rooney was the other – to start all three friendlies was because Capello was harbouring serious doubts over the Arsenal man's recovery from a series of injuries that stretches back to the dislocated shoulder he suffered just before England's friendly win over Germany in Berlin.
That encounter, in November 2008, came just two months after Walcott's magical hat-trick in Croatia that launched England on their way to the World Cup.
However, as the 21-year-old yesterday discovered, past glories count for nothing in Capello's world.
Apparently unable to operate on the left flank, unlike Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips who made the cut instead, and with no sign of a consistent end product to go with his very obvious blinding speed, Capello decided Walcott was a luxury he could do without.
"I am very disappointed not to be included in the squad going out to South Africa, but completely respect Mr Capello's decision," said Walcott.
"I would like to wish the team the best of luck and hope they have a really successful tournament."
Wright-Phillips is the obvious beneficiary and can probably count himself rather fortunate.
After all, the 28-year-old has tended to be overlooked by club boss Roberto Mancini, who has preferred the talents of new recruit Adam Johnson.
As Johnson was also in that provisional squad, and has played on both the left and right wings regularly at Premier League level, he might have been a more obvious choice.
But Capello has been wary of drafting in someone who started the season in the Championship at Middlesbrough and Johnson's admission that he found it difficult to breathe during his debut against Mexico probably made the manager's mind up about a player who will almost certainly be a member of his squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers when they get underway in September.
On a day when the FA's official announcement was overtaken somewhat by news leaking out about individual members of the squad as Capello rang each man in turn to tell them their status, the other surprise inclusion was Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock, whose international experience remains stuck at the six minutes' action he got in Trinidad two years ago.
Bizarrely, Warnock did not feature at all in the last three friendlies, when Leighton Baines started twice.
But Baines's frank revelation that he could struggle with homesickness if he spent six weeks away from his family must have rung alarm bells for Capello, essentially as his back-up left-back might never get a chance to play in South Africa, hence Warnock's inclusion as Ashley Cole's deputy.
Once Capello had received confirmation that Gareth Barry's recovery from his ankle injury had progressed to an extent that, at the very least, he will be fit to play a full part in training immediately after the Group C opener against the United States on June 12, the remainder of England's squad was as expected.
Neither Scott Parker nor Michael Dawson played a minute of the last two friendlies. They were out.
As was Tom Huddlestone, who would have benefited if Barry had been forced to pull out.
As Darren Bent found against Brazil in November and Japan on Sunday, 25 goals for Sunderland does not necessarily equate to scoring form on the international arena, while Joe Cole benefits from the injury to David Beckham.