Football: Walcott's World Cup injury blow saddens Hodgson

LONDON (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson spoke of his disappointment on Tuesday after Arsenal forward Theo Walcott was ruled out of this year's World Cup with a serious knee injury.

Walcott, 24, damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Arsenal's Football Association Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, with his club announcing on Monday he will be unavailable for around six months.

As well as missing the rest of the season, it means Walcott has also been ruled out of the World Cup in Brazil, which begins in June, barring an extraordinary recovery.

It is the latest chapter in a story of World Cup misery for Walcott, who was called up for the 2006 tournament at the age of 17 but did not play and was then left out for the 2010 tournament by coach Fabio Capello.

"I spoke with Theo and just wanted to express my disappointment to him," current England boss Hodgson told on Tuesday.

"It is a blow for him personally of course, and for both Arsenal and England.

"We had quite a lengthy conversation and it is such a shame that we have lost a player of his calibre for the World Cup, he has been incredibly unfortunate and we wish him a speedy recovery."

However, Mr Hodgson said Walcott had the mentality not to let this injury define his career.

"Having worked with him for two years as England manager I know the character he has, and I know he will come back even stronger from this setback."

But former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright was less certain.

Earlier on Tuesday, Wright, who sat out the 1998 World Cup in France due to a hamstring injury, told BBC Radio Five Live: "As a player, it's devastating. I missed out on a World Cup in '98 through injury and it's something that you never truly get over.

"In the end I didn't actually get to play in any, but for someone like Theo who has been there but not played - but he has been there - for this one I feel he would have been ready."

Former England striker Michael Owen, who sustained a serious knee injury during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, also voiced support for Walcott.

"Shocking news regarding Theo Walcott," Owen wrote on Twitter. "I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he returns next season as good as ever."

Walcott's injury could open the door for James Milner, Andros Townsend, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana or Aaron Lennon, all of whom will hope to take his place on the right flank of England's attack.