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Former England wonderkid Theo Walcott set to hang up boots

Ex-England and Arsenal star Theo Walcott is poised to announce his retirement from football following his release from boyhood club Southampton at the end of last season.

The forward had been hoping to extend his career and was linked with a summer move to various teams but, with no club seemingly keen to take a punt on the 34-year-old, he has opted to call it quits.

Southampton speedster bursts onto the scene

Walcott came through the youth ranks at Southampton, who are 11/2 to win the Championship Outright this season, and became the club's youngest-ever player when he came on as a substitute in a goalless Championship draw away at Wolves, taking to the pitch at just 16 years and 143 days old.

Blessed with the sort of raw pace which terrified second-tier defenders, the teenage Walcott would become the Saints' youngest-ever goalscorer, finding the net on his full debut in a 2-1 loss at Leeds.

His performances soon caught the attention of a number of Premier League suitors including Arsenal, who signed him for £5million with add-ons, beating Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool for his signature.

North London move brings FA Cup honours

Walcott initially moved to Arsenal as a scholar, signing a professional contract at the turn of his 17th birthday before making his debut in August 2006, coming off the bench to replace Freddie Ljungberg in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.

He would have to wait a while to score his first goal for the club but it came on the big stage as he put Arsenal ahead after 12 minutes of the 2007 Carling Cup final against Chelsea in which, unfortunately for Walcott and the Gunners, the Blues would recover to win 2-1.

After a slow start to life in North London, not helped by the persistent injuries which would blight the latter stages of his career, Walcott became a regular at the Emirates, scoring 13 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions in the 2010/11 season including a hat-trick in a 6-0 rout of Blackpool.

He would continue to see regular first-team action throughout the 2011/12 season, playing a key role in a memorable 5-3 Premier League win over Chelsea and scoring twice in the 5-2 north London derby win over Tottenham.

Walcott's most prolific years came in three campaigns from 2010/11 and 2012/13, when he scored 45 goals in 127 appearances in all competitions.

Despite struggling to stay fit in subsequent seasons, Walcott would pick up the first senior trophy of his career in 2015, scoring the opening goal in Arsenal's 4-0 FA Cup final triumph over Aston Villa.

The Gunners would seal another FA Cup win two years later, this time beating Chelsea in the final with Walcott scoring the opening spot-kick as Arsenal triumphed on penalties.

He would leave Arsenal for Everton halfway through the 2017/18 season having scored 108 goals in 397 matches in all competitions for the club.

Record-breaking hat-trick an England highlight

Once considered a future England star, Walcott's international career saw him earn 47 caps for the Three Lions in a career which started on a bizarre note as Sven-Goran Eriksson named him in his 2006 World Cup squad before he'd made his Arsenal debut.

Walcott made his debut in a pre-tournament friendly win over Hungary but he would not see action at the World Cup and Eriksson was roundly criticised for the selection as England crashed out to Portugal at the quarter-final stage.

Comfortably the most memorable moment of Walcott's England career came in a World Cup qualifier over Croatia in September 2008, when he scored his first international goal before going on to net a hat-trick in a 4-1 win in Zagreb.

He would wait four years for another international goal, scoring for the Three Lions in a 2-2 Euro 2012 draw with Sweden - his only strike at a major tournament - and his final appearance came in a friendly against Spain in 2016.

A solid career despite numerous injury problems

After leaving Arsenal, Walcott failed to make much impact in a four-year spell at Goodison Park, scoring 11 goals in 85 appearances in all competitions before rejoining Southampton, initially on loan and then permanently from the start of the 2021/22 campaign.

His second spell with the Saints saw the winger score five goals in 58 appearances in all competitions.

Once touted as England's saviour, it's arguable that Walcott never quite managed to fulfil his potential but he enjoyed a solid Premier League career, scoring 80 goals and contributing 56 assists in 397 matches.

A £5m transfer fee for an unproven teenager looked excessive at the time but Walcott did provide some magic moments for both Arsenal and England and it's not unreasonable to suggest he would've achieved more had he had more luck with injuries.

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