Theo Walcott never had the opportunity to properly develop, and instead endured some rough times in the Arsenal and England spotlight. England would be wise to operate with caution in bringing along its next rising star.

By 90Min
January 22, 2018

After impressing at Manchester City's academy and being fast-tracked into the first team at only the age of 17, Jadon Sancho now moved on to play for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and with his reputation growing game by game many have compared his rise to that of a young Theo Walcott. 

However, if Sancho is to realize his potential he must learn from the mistakes of Walcott.

In 2005, Theo Walcott burst onto the scene, becoming the youngest ever player to feature in the Southampton first team. His appearances for the Saints earned him a move to Arsenal in the January transfer window of 2006. 

Walcott was surprisingly selected for the English World Cup squad by Sven-Göran Eriksson that year, despite the attacker only making 13 senior football appearances and making none since joining Arsenal. 

Walcott made his senior international debut for England at 17 years and 75 days in a 3-1 win over Hungary in a World Cup warm up fixture. Despite not featuring at all in the tournament, Eriksson stated that the experience that Walcott gained would serve the attacker well for future tournaments. 

Walcott's problem was that he was brought in too early on almost everything. At age 15 he was in the Southampton reserves; by 16 the first team at the Saints, and by 17 at the World Cup with England. Walcott never got the opportunity to develop, he had to learn on the job and for him his job was not a reserve game where about 100 people would come and watch, it was at the Emirates and Wembley in front of thousands of fans.

Despite the lack of development, Walcott seemed to be learning quite quickly and a hat trick away to Croatia back in 2008 really underlined that this kid had talent. However, the main reason that Walcott never evolved into the player that his potential suggested was down to his inconsistency.

One week Walcott would be a world beater and the next a shadow of that same man the week previous, along with this the Englishman always struggled with his position. Walcott always wanted to be a center forward instead of a winger, and for a small period he was granted the opportunity up front, but once again he failed to establish himself. 

Walcott never became the player that Arsene Wenger could turn to and say 'win me this match,' he more or less became the player that Wenger would use off the bench in case of an emergency. 

Over the past four years Walcott has been relatively invisible and only recently he joined Everton, a move that he should have made years ago. 

For Sancho he will need to look at the mistakes of Walcott and learn from them. Sancho wasn't getting enough game time at City so he moved to a place where he could progress - Dortmund. Due to injuries Sancho was given his first start against Wolfsburg in the first game of the Rückrunde. 

Sancho has since then go on to start against Hertha Berlin, and in that same match he provided the assist for Shinji Kagawa's goal to earn Dortmund a point. After assisting the goal, Sancho suddenly became a different player, with confidence on his side he began to demand the ball off his teammates and ran the show for Dortmund. 

His potential is there for all to see just like with Walcott, but unlike the now Everton man, Sancho must continue to develop and not become content with his current situation. The 17-year-old must nail down a position and become the player that the next Dortmund boss can turn to in a time of need. 

As for the international scene, if Gareth Southgate picks Sancho for the World Cup it would come as a massive surprise to many. 

Sancho won the under-17 World Cup with England in the summer and for the time being it might be a smart decision not to go to the World Cup with the senior squad this summer, and learn from Walcott's mistake of going to the World Cup at a young age and then becoming comfortable with just being a squad player for England. 

It is unlikely that Sancho will go to the World Cup this summer, but one thing is for sure is that he must look at Walcott's career, learn from it and not become another English youngster who promised so much but delivered so little.

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