Walcott rues Arsenal fan Bale not joining the Gunners
Published 23:00 12/11/10 By John Cross
They are two of the biggest stars in the Premier League.
This season they will come face to face in domestic and international combat.
Yet when they were wide-eyed teenage prospects at Southampton, Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale had their own Wonderwall in the room where they shared their hopes and dreams.
They both signed their names on the wall in their digs on the south coast to mark the spot where it all began and now the 21-year-olds are both starring for club and country.
Tottenham wideman Bale announced his arrival on the world stage by destroying Inter Milan. He will go head-to-head with Walcott in the north London derby next Saturday. They will also face each other in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Walcott says the wind-ups about their international showdown will start as soon as local hostilities are over with the Arsenal winger already planning to tease Bale about his hair style.
Walcott said: “We were room mates. We shared digs in Southampton and we actually signed the room somewhere where we were together. We wanted to make our mark! It’s probably gone now.
“I’ve played with him since under-11s at Southampton. With him being an Arsenal fan, it’s just a shame he didn’t come to us!
“We still get on really well. I watched both Inter games in the Champions League. I phoned him straight away, wanted to be the first to leave him a message. I couldn’t repeat what I said!
“I think everyone knows who Gareth Bale is now. We’ve got the qualifier against Wales as well. I haven’t been winding him up about that yet but I will after the Tottenham game!”
As soon as talk turned to Bale, Walcott became like a kid again as he enjoyed the banter but also has huge respect for his former Southampton team mate.
Bale really made his mark and ensured his place on the hit-list for Europe’s top clubs with his two stunning man-of-the-match performances against Inter Milan.
Welshman Bale scored a hat trick in the San Siro but Balemania was officially launched after Tottenham beat reigning European champions Inter Milan at White Hart Lane last week.
But Walcott says he is not surprised to see Bale’s amazing progress and believes he will get even better in the future.
“He’s had his injuries as well so it’s nice to see him building on his potential now as well,” said Walcott.
“The Inter game was amazing. It was one of those games that will probably never happen again. To play against Maicon - with people saying he’s the best in the world - in the way he did was fantastic.
“The Spurs game will be a big test for us. It’s the early kick-off, straight after the international break and I’ll be on the right and he’s on the left so it’ll be a big test for us both.”
It will also be a chance for Walcott and Bale to go head-to-head in a race. Walcott admits he was in awe when he met one of his all-time heroes, Olympic legend Carl Lewis, at the re-opening of the Nike Town store in London.
Walcott has clocked 10.6secs in the 100m, beat Thierry Henry’s seven-year-old record in Arsenal’s sprint tests over 40m this season and still loves athletics.
But Walcott said: “I was star struck to meet Carl Lewis. I followed athletics, the 100m and he was the best. People talk about Usain Bolt, but back then it was totally different footwear, everything like that. It’s massively different now.
It would be a good race between me and Gareth. He would say I’m quicker than him and I would say that he’s quicker than me.
“The thing is with Gareth is that it’s so hard to stop him. When he gets motoring it’s so hard to stop him. With me, over the first ten or 20 metres I’m there.
“Gareth was a little stick when he first came to Southampton. But he’s built up, done fantastically well and I’m so pleased for him. It’s been very difficult for us both to come through and get to where we are now.
“Gareth has a different style. He looks quicker with the ball. When he sees that space, he attacks it. It’s very difficult to stop him. Bolton did very well to stop him last weekend and hopefully we can do that.”
Walcott believes Bale’s influence will help Tottenham become genuine title contenders this season.
But Walcott also believes it will be an even more open race than last season as he also warned it is time that Arsenal ensured they come out on top this season.
Walcott said: “We all want to win the league. Especially for the fans, it’s been too long.
“We’ve got a fantastic team potential. But we’ve got to build that potential into winning things now. You can’t use that excuse of being young anymore. We need to win things now and we’ve got experience from things like the Champions League.
“You get that from playing in big games like Barcelona and we’re well equipped now. I still think that we can win the title this season.
“I think it will be more open this year. The teams have got better right through the league. Look at Newcastle. Last time they came to us they had no chance at all.
“It’s going to be great for the neutrals and it will be very interesting right until the last few weeks.
“It’s new for Tottenham. It can be difficult to cope with playing in the Champions League, hard games in the Premier League and that’s a big test for them. They’ve got a great squad, big potential so it’s a big season for them.”