Theo Walcott has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 34.
In total, he made 564 appearances for Southampton, Arsenal and Everton scoring 129 goals. He also netted eight times for England for whom he played 47 times.
The winger shot to prominence in 2005 as a 16-year-old when he became the youngest player to feature for Southampton and he became the subject of national interest when Arsene Wenger signed him the following January and then persuaded Sven Goran Eriksen to take him to the 2006 World Cup even though he’d not made his Arsenal debut.
Unsurprisingly, Walcott didn’t feature for England in Germany but eyebrows were raised when he missed out on the 2010 tournament, especially as he’d scored a hat-trick against Croatia in qualifying. In the end, his only appearance at a major tournament was at Euro 2012 where England were knocked out by Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Thank you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/A4qRFMUKr9
— Theo Walcott (@theowalcott) August 18, 2023
Walcott made his Arsenal debut on the opening day of the 2006/07 season, coming off the bench to tee up a Gilberto Silva goal as the Gunners snatched a 1-1 draw in their first competitive game at Emirates Stadium.
Six months later, he scored his first goal for the club in the League Cup final, breaking the deadlock against Chelsea who regrettably recovered to win 2-1. Theo’s strike was the first of 108 for the Gunners; a creditable total for a player who predominantly featured out wide despite flirtations as a central striker.
Blessed with searing pace, Walcott developed a knack for breaking through defensive lines and scoring Henry-esque curlers from the left and low drives across the keeper from the right. There were plenty of chances missed along the way, which often frustrated supporters who were so keen to see him live up to his potential. To be fair, he also registered 80 assists, striking up very fruitful relationships with the likes of Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Olivier Giroud.
Thanks for the memories, @theowalcott ❤️
Wishing you all the best for your retirement 🙌 pic.twitter.com/hcY3MwPp9n
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 18, 2023
In many respects, Theo was the perfect embodiment of Arsenal during his 12-year tenure; there were plenty of magic moments (his performances against Barcelona, that run at Anfield, memorable hat-tricks against Newcastle and Reading, goals against Sp*rs) but not quite enough substance to live at the top consistently.
Theo was injured when Arsenal ended a nine-year trophy drought by beating Hull City in the FA Cup final in 2014, but he did get to experience success at Wembley the following year when he opened the scoring in the final as the Gunners eased past Aston Villa 4-0. He was also an unused substitute in the 2017 final when Arsene Wenger’s team beat Chelsea 2-1.
Walcott left for Everton in January 2018 in a deal worth around £20 million and made 85 appearances for the Toffees across three seasons. He then closed things out with a second spell at Southampton for whom he scored his final professional goal against Arsenal.
While it’s hard to label that strike, which put the Saints 2-0 up, as a killer blow to Arsenal’s hopes, it didn’t exactly help our cause!
He said afterwards: “My son’s going to be really disappointed that I didn’t celebrate but I just couldn’t. It was a very indifferent day for me today, I felt like I couldn’t win.”
Once a Gunner, always a Gunner…as they say.
No doubt, the club will invite Theo back in the near future for the chance to renew acquaintances with the supporters.
Speaking about the decision to retire, he told the Overlap podcast: “It’s scary because football’s all I’ve known from the age of 16 or even younger. I want to try new things I never experienced as a kid – I missed out on a lot. I just feel like I want to experience life – things [usually] revolve around football for me.”
We wish him all the best for the future.