Arsenal's 'Ox' won't be another Walcott - Hodgson

England manager believes teenager is ready to make the leap

England manager Roy Hodgson is convinced that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's selection for Euro 2012 will not mirror Theo Walcott's ill-fated trip to the 2006 World Cup.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was the boldest name included in Hodgson's 23-man party for Poland and the Ukraine on Wednesday, with the 18-year-old still yet to win his first cap at senior international level.

The Arsenal teenager's selection echoed that of Walcott in the England squad six years ago, when then manager Sven Goran-Eriksson gambled on his inclusion only to end up not using him at any stage of the tournament.

However Hodgson is adamant that he has seen enough of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who like Walcott joined Arsenal from Southampton, to convince him that the teenager midfielder is ready to make the leap to international level.

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"I wouldn't have chosen him if I didn't think he could start a game," said Hodgson, who revealed he had been impressed by Oxlade-Chamberlain when he starred in Arsenal's 3-0 Champions League win over AC Milan earlier this year.

"It won't be easy for him to break into the team when you see the competition. But I'd like to think that I've seen him play in European matches, and he sprung to my attention in the Milan game.

"I thought he handled that occasion extremely well. He's got a maturity beyond his years. He is a precocious talent and I think sometimes there's got to be a place in the squad for precocious talent, especially if it's someone you believe might go on and help you win matches in the future."

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While acknowledging the comparisons with Walcott, who was only 17 when picked by Eriksson six years ago, Hodgson believes Oxlade-Chamberlain will be unfazed by the prospect of playing alongside established England stars.

"I'm pretty sure that Sven selected Walcott for the right reasons but maybe it just turned out that Walcott wasn't quite up to it at that time when push came to shove," Hodgson said.

"But I am expecting that when we do our training sessions that Oxlade-Chamberlain will now be able to deal with that situation and won't be over-awed by the Gerrards, the Lampards, the Barrys and the Parkers.

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"I'm expecting him to stand up to that. I don't know - but there's only one way to find out and that's to sling him in at the deep end because even if he doesn't swim he'll soon learn to swim in future.

Meanwhile Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted his selection felt "surreal."

"I'm obviously delighted," he told Arsenal.com. "To be picked for your country at any stage is a massive honour and to be at a huge tournament like the Euros is such a bonus.

"I would have probably laughed if someone had told me I would be in the Euro 2012 a year ago.

"Obviously you would like to think that and it is what you aim towards but sometimes you have to be realistic and realise it might take a little bit longer than that.

"So for everything to happen as quickly as it has, it has been surreal and I don't think it has really sunk in properly yet.


 

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