Euro 2016 squad: Rashford and Walcott – a tale of two teenagers
Manchester United youngster called up by Roy Hodgson, but is it the end of the road for another former teenage sensation?
The story of Roy Hodgson's provisional 26-man squad for Euro 2016 could be billed as a tale of two teenagers. One is Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, who has forced his way into the reckoning and the other is, or rather was, Theo Walcott, who has been left out and faces international exile ten years after he was first picked for England as a 17-year-old star of the future.
If Rashford and Walcott have provided the main talking points, they are not the only ones, with Andros Townsend and Jack Wilshere both selected and Phil Jagielka and Mark Noble conspicuous by their absence.
But "Rashford is the standout name" in the squad, says The Guardian. His inclusion is not a "huge surprise" thanks to form since breaking into the United side earlier this year, and the absence of Danny Welbeck through injury. "It is nevertheless a bold move given the player's age and relative lack of club and international experience," says the paper.
The 18-year-old forward is widely expected to be one of the three culled from the squad before the finals. Hodgson has tempered excitement at the news of Rashford's inclusion by stating it would be "harder than some think" for Rashford to knock "someone off their perch".
But he has a "glimmer" of hope, says The Times, as there are other candidates for the chop. Jordan Henderson and Wilshere are both short of fitness after injury lay-offs and Townsend must prove he can operate as a replacement for Welbeck. The squad contains seven players who can operate at full back and eight players who can call themselves central midfielders.
Few people "really believed he'd be given a place in the squad at the expense of experienced players like Theo Walcott but United's gain is also England's gain as Rashford's remarkable rise to prominence may have earned him a train ticket to France", says The Telegraph.
As for Walcott, questions must be asked over his long-term future as he faces up to more England heartbreak after Fabio Capello dropped him for the 2010 World Cup and he missed the 2014 tournament through injury.
Walcott was selected for the 2006 World Cup but did not play and after England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 his only experience of international tournament football has come at Euro 2012. At the age of 27 it could be that the door has finally closed for the Arsenal and England nearly man.
"Walcott's career feels like it's been on the cusp of reaching the summit of its potential for years now. And yet, could he instead find himself on the downslope without even realising it?" asks Adam Bate of Sky Sports.
"Walcott is already the longest-serving player on Arsenal's payroll. He has spent more time at the club than either Ian Wright or Thierry Henry, but opinion is still divided.
"Walcott can comfort himself with the knowledge that Wright had yet to wear an Arsenal shirt at the same age and that Jamie Vardy hadn't played top-flight football of any kind. On the other hand, 27 was also the age at which Michael Owen scored his last England goal. Extreme pace and cruciate knee ligament injuries are a bad combination in the life of a footballer."
And there could be a lesson for Rashford. Walcott's England debut aged 17 "created expectation of his potential ability that he has, thus far, failed to live up to", says the Evening Standard. Rashford will hope to avoid a similar fate.