Opinion: Prodigious wonderkid to Everton whipping boy – where did it all go wrong for Theo Walcott?

Every club has a whipping boy, a player they just love to slate, a man who must have been responsible for Brexit, global poverty and every type of social injustice all because they fluffed a really really good chance against Burnley.

There are no exceptions. It doesn’t matter how good or bad a club is, there is just one player who the vast majority of supporters love to hate. At Everton that man is Theo Walcott. He’s the type of player who can score a hat-trick and leave fans feeling dissatisfied, so it’s no wonder that his name was banded around with pure disgust in light of Everton’s 2-0 defeat against Manchester City. Business as usual.

Tweets of this nature are simply the tip of the iceberg. Every Everton game draws a fresh batch of rage-fuelled tweets to be launched in Walcott’s direction. I honestly dread to think what his self-esteem looks like if he’s ever glanced over some post-match social media reaction to his performances since moving to Goodison Park.

But is Walcott really, I mean really that bad? There was once a time when the then-Southampton teenage sensation was breaking all kinds of records at youth level, drawing attention from Premier League giants and expectant England supporters who saw something special in him.

The speed at which Walcott ate up the turf hinted that the next Michael Owen had been born; his technical quality – particularly his finishing – would take time to fine tune but plenty of experience would surely guarantee a future at the summit of English, if not world football.

Well, the gargantuan expectation has not been mirrored by reality. The reality is actually something of a footballing catastrophe. Everton, with all due respect, are not the type of club which intrigued onlookers envisaged for the jet-heeled teenager’s future. And when you consider only a tiny minority of supporters would actually bat an eyelid in the event of his departure, the extent of his underachievement is as sobering as it is transparent.

Our friend on Twitter pretty much slams the nail on the head. Walcott has literally never improved; if anything he’s regressed. Against Aymeric Laporte, a top quality defender no doubt but a man who hasn’t always looked sure of himself at left-back, Walcott had fleeting moments when he threatened to do something but, predictably, his performance was about as middle of the road as a bag of ready salted crisps.

Rewind to 9th October 2008. England travelled to Croatia to face our arch-nemesis: the side who had the arrogance to step out at Wembley and dump us out of Euro 2008 at the qualification stage, leaving Steve McClaren – or “the wolly with the brolly” – infamously plastered on the back page of every English newspaper.

Tensions were high before the game and England were out for revenge. Under the watch of England’s replacement for McClaren, Fabio Capello, Walcott, 19 at the time, was handed only his second ever start at international level, getting the nod over no other than David Beckham. He scored a hat-trick. England went home with the taste of revenge festering in their mouths. Walcott was a national hero and surely the future of the English game. How far could he rise?

More than ten years later, this is now the type of question people are asking…

And within those five simple words the extent of Walcott’s underachievement was confirmed.