Exclusive: Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is at the right club to shine
Former Gunners boss Terry Neill feels England starlet will only improve at the Emirates
A new star is born and already English football is, predictably, piling way too much pressure on him.
Journalists who should know better are labelling Arsenal’s teenage sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ‘the new Theo Walcott’ – is that a compliment? – and at least one leading bookmaker this week quoted an astonishing 6-4 that the teen attacker will make England’s Euro 2012 squad.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has clearly hit the ground running at the Emirates since his summer move from Southampton, with a goal on his first senior start against Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup followed by the opener in a 2-1 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League – making him the youngest ever English scorer in Europe’s premier club competition at the same time.
This was quickly followed by an impressive hat-trick in Iceland for the England Under-21s last week.
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That treble in the frozen north has got the winger, who netted 10 times in his first full season for the Saints, noticed outside of north London.
The pressure has cranked up another notch
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In fact, to highlight the absurdity of it all, at least one national newspaper has already labelled another young winger starting out on the south coast as the ‘new Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’ – 16-year-old Plymouth Argyle hopeful Matt Lecointe.
‘The Ox’, as he is now called by Arsenal fans, has the world at his feet, the latest in a long line of English starlets with bloated expectations.
Former Arsenal manager Terry Neill is somebody who has seen it all before.
“Those three goals for the England Under-21s last week propelled him, no doubt about it,” Neill tells Ham&High Sport.
“That hat-trick pushed his name forward, but only time will tell. So far, so good. That’s all we can say at this stage.
“He’ll get all the plaudits now, it has happened a million times before, but the signs are encouraging that he has the right temperament to cope – and he’s at right club to develop him and keep his feet on the ground.”
Neill, himself, knows all about being a young international star. He remains the youngest person to both skipper and manage his native Northern Ireland – and he remembers the pressure of turning out as a teenager for the mighty Arsenal.
“I remember a young lad called Gerry Ward who made his Arsenal debut at 16. He was a very good player but was under enormous pressure and it never fully worked out for him. You have to be careful.
“That is why Arsene Wenger is the best possible person to manage young Alex.
“He won’t just throw him in – he’ll work with him, improve him, shield him. He’ll do everything right by the boy. It is clear he has talent and on the few occasions I have seen him I have been impressed – he definitely has something.
“I’ve been there myself in many ways. I was playing for my country as a teenager and although things are different now, back then there was still big pressure.
“I played in Berlin in front of 125,000 against Germany as a teenager. I marked the great Uwe Seeler and did something right because I don’t recall him scoring.
“Then again, like young Alex is now, I was surrounded by good people who taught me good habits and looked after me.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s father agrees. Prior to completing his move from Southampton, dad Mark Chamberlain, the former Portsmouth, Stoke and England winger, made it abundantly clear the Emirates was his preferred option.
“To develop at a place like Arsenal can’t be a bad thing. In my eyes, I’d like him to go there as soon as possible, and continue his development,” said Chamberlain senior.
England Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce is clearly impressed with the development so far. Speaking after last Friday’s vidctory in Reykjavik, he said: “Alex is a real talent and a team member as well.
“He’s a talented boy who has come on in leaps and bounds since we had him with us at the back end of last season.
“Alex is very level-headed, but you have to say that anyone scoring a hat-trick on international duty has done very well and it’s very pleasing for any manager.”
Now Oxlade-Chamberlain has, if selected, both barrels trained on Sunderland’s goal this Sunday lunchtime...
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