In our newest Total Saints Opinion, TSP patron Alistair Downs speaks of his delight at Theo Walcott's return to St. Mary's....
"There is something undeniably romantic about Theo Walcott’s return to St Mary’s after 14 years away.
The rational part of me asks questions about his age, commitment, injuries and the overall Club strategy… but, in a year desperately short on feel-good stories, I’m willing to give myself a break and embrace the signing as something positive.
Walcott’s arrival has a hint of Hollywood about it – a classic story of 'the boy who returned as a man'. He was a New Hope, but will this be the Return of the Jedi or will it all go a bit Phantom Menace?
Theo Walcott was the first of a number of outstanding talents to make the first team in the years after our relegation in 2005. His emergence was soon followed by Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, amongst others.
It is a cruel twist of fate that such players should emerge at a time where the club was in no way able to offer them either the top-flight football their potential deserved or come close to matching the money that Premier League sides would be able to throw their way.
I was at St Mary’s for Theo’s debut against Wolves, our first game outside of the top-flight since 1978.
It was immediately clear that we had another special talent on our hands.
Skillful, quick and direct, Walcott was exactly the type of player we had been missing for some years and, when a few games later he exquisitely lobbed the on-rushing Luton ‘keeper, it was clear that a Championship club would soon struggle to hold on to his abilities.
For me, selling Walcott was the one that hurt the most.
I think it really brought home what relegation meant for Saints in that we now had nothing to bargain with.
Of course, he would have left sooner rather than later, no matter what division we were in, but at just 21 Championship appearances, it was an incredibly short service.
I have always believed that his career would have benefitted massively from at least that first full season with Saints - quite possibly another after that (who knows how the team would have done if he'd stayed!).
At the end of the day, football is an entertainment business and I challenge even the coldest heart not to have allowed themselves to be even a little enamored with the nostalgic announcement video or Theo’s claim that “I might cry the first time I play”. If it works out it will be a truly beautiful story of a career coming full-circle.
For anyone else who can remember when signing ‘over-the-hill’ players meant Barry Venison, Carlton Palmer, Stuart Ripley and Mark Hughes – you have to admit, a 31-year-old Theo Walcott doesn’t sound bad at all, does it!?"
Article by Alistair Downs
(Photos by Southampton FC and Getty Images)