Worthy eyes young Gunners

CHRIS LAKEY Theo Walcott could be pulling on a Norwich City shirt next season after Nigel Worthington revealed that he was looking to Premiership giants Arsenal to help provide the ammunition for a promotion challenge.


Theo Walcott could be pulling on a Norwich City shirt next season after Canaries boss Nigel Worthington revealed yesterday that he was looking to Premiership giants Arsenal to help provide the ammunition for a promotion challenge.

Worthington has been in contact with Gunners assistant manager and former Northern Ireland team-mate Pat Rice to ensure that City get a bite of the cherry should any of the London giants' rising stars be available for a season-long loan move.

And when Arsenal come to compiling a list of players who might benefit from a season in the Championship, Walcott is likely to be on it.

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Walcott - the rookie whose England World Cup call-up caused such controversy - is the most high profile of the Gunners' young fringe players, although Worthington was yesterday not naming names.

"We have spoken to the people at Arsenal asking to be kept aware of any of the young players who might be available on loan," said Worthington. "There are no really definite names I can mention. I spoke to Pat Rice just to be aware of anyone they might have."

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At the moment it is a waiting game, with Arsenal reluctant to allow players to leave at this stage of their preparation for the new season.

"It's so they are covered in case they have knocks of their own," added Worthington, who pulled off something of a coup two seasons ago when he persuaded Wenger to part with David Bentley for a year. "But we have planted the seed with them."

Walcott, 17, has yet to play a senior game of any kind for Arsenal since his £5m move from Southampton in January, with his experience limited to just 13 Championship starts for the south coast club.

However, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was investing in promise and might just be willing to let Walcott gather some much-needed experience before he plunges him into the world of Premiership and Champions League football.

One look at Wenger's squad suggests Walcott will have to work hard to get off the bench.

Even accounting for the departure of Dennis Bergkamp, Wenger has the likes of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jose Antonio Reyes at his disposal.

Wenger is likely to have a squad of around 40 players to choose from and there are plenty more besides Walcott to interest a Championship manager.

Jeremie Aliadiere and Justin Hoyte were both farmed out last season while Worthington watched as Sebastian Larsson, Arturo Lupoli, Anthony Stokes and Nicklas Bendtner all performed impressively when Arsenal's reserves hit five past City's second string in January.

With the first match of the season just 24 days away, Worthington has yet to make a summer signing and yesterday admitted to his frustration.

"With the money we have got to spend it is proving very difficult to get the quality of player that I want," he said. "We have got a couple of phone calls in to different clubs, but nothing has happened at all."

"It is frustrating because you want to get everybody ship-shape and new players integrated," he said. "You can have a certain amount of patience but at the end of the day you have to go out and get them. I want us to be proactive rather than reactive."

The tight purse strings at Carrow Road ended any hope of signing Rob Hulse from Leeds, who want around £2m for the striker, and may also frustrate the bid for Luton's Steve Howard.

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