Winger had electrifying pace, scored in an FA Cup final for Arsenal and claimed a memorable hat-trick for England

Perhaps this will be Theo Walcott’s breakthrough year. So went the cheap shot, heard into his 30s, that played with the idea an explosive talent never quite reached fulfilment. The jam was always promised for tomorrow; the 17-year-old taken to Germany 2006 for the ride never quite matured into an adult footballer’s body.

Now he has announced his retirement at 34 and, taking his career in the round, an alternative reading holds far more water. Walcott may have become a footnote since leaving Arsenal five years ago, summoning only glimpses at Everton and during a farewell tour back at Southampton, but there is a sense much of the previous decade was spent battling to meet an almost impossible standard.

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