Theo Walcott was the shock casualty as England coach Fabio Capello named his final 23-man squad for the World Cup on Tuesday.
Walcott was expected to be on the England team’s flight to South Africa on Wednesday after the Arsenal winger played a significant role in the qualifying campaign, but Capello has decided Manchester City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon represent better options on the flanks.
Also receiving the unwanted call from Capello to hear they had been left out were Everton left-back Leighton Baines, Manchester City winger Adam Johnson, West Ham midfielder Scott Parker, Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson, Sunderland striker Darren Bent and Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone.
It is the second time Walcott has been involved in a controversial World Cup selection after his surprise inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson’s squad for the 2006 tournament.
Eriksson’s gamble to include the teenager, even though he had yet to make his Premier League debut for Arsenal, failed to pay-off as he didn’t make a single appearance.
Walcott recently admitted he did not deserve to be picked four years ago, but he had no indication he would miss out this time. His crucial hattrick in a 4-1 qualifying victory over Croatia in September 2008 looked to have cemented his place in the squad.
However, an injury-hit campaign meant Walcott started just 15 times for Arsenal this season.
The 21-year-old displayed flashes of his electric pace in last week’s friendly win over Mexico, but he was less impressive in Sunday’s victory against Japan and failed to convince Capello he was in good enough form to take to South Africa.
Walcott was clearly shocked by his absence from the squad and said: “I am very disappointed not to be included in the squad going out to South Africa, but completely respect Mr Capello’s decision.
With scans on Gareth Barry’s ankle injury confirming he is on course to recover in time to play a full part in training immediately after the Group C opener against the United States on June 12, Capello has decided to include the Manchester City midfielder.