Walcott in positive frame about having a future with Gunners
THEO WALCOTT felt honoured to be part of Arsenal's FA Cup victory parade - and indicated he would be happy to continue pushing the squad on toward more success.
The England forward joined the club's open-top bus parade from the Emirates Stadium around the streets of north London following their 4-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Walcott, who scored Arsenal's first goal just before half-time, has seen his future in the spotlight, with talks over a contract extension not yet resolved. However, the 26-year-old, who has been at the club for a decade, remains relaxed over the situation and is "sure things will get resolved," as negotiations with his representatives and the club are set to continue later in the summer, albeit slowly.
Many thousands of Arsenal fans had braved the rain to cheer the squad as the buses crawled towards a civic reception at Islington Town Hall, celebrating the club's record 12th FA Cup victory after successfully retaining the trophy. The damp conditions had not put any of the Gunners faithful off waiting patiently for several hours for the team's return to the Emirates Stadium, where skipper Mikel Arteta and vice-captain Per Mertesacker presented the FA Cup on stage.
Walcott said he had been moved by the celebrations, having not been able to enjoy them 12 months ago through a combination of injury and personal issues.
"I sadly missed all of this last year, and you guys have made this so special, not just for me, but the whole squad, and everyone you do not see behind the scenes at the club, I cannot thank you enough," Walcott said over the public address system.
"The whole squad is fantastic. I have been here a long time and this is the best group of players I have ever worked with and will continue to work with. The most important thing we have now in this team is trust, when you have that in a squad you are going to be determined to win big things.
"The excitement here is absolutely incredible and to be part of it is a great honour."
Earlier, Walcott had been asked directly about his contract situation, and was equally as positive about the future.
From the team bus, Walcott said: "I am sure things will get resolved. I just want to enjoy today.
"I have got England coming up and then we can think about that process, but it will take time, I am sure."
Arsenal took command of the 2015 FA Cup final when Alexis Sanchez cracked in a 25-yard effort at the start of the second half. Mertesacker headed in a third before substitute Olivier Giroud wrapped things up from close range in stoppage time as the Gunners recorded the biggest FA Cup final winning margin in more than 20 years.
Having secured a successful defence of the trophy, there is a growing feeling Arsenal are again ready to mount a sustained challenge for a first Barclays Premier League title since 2004. Manager Arsene Wenger is expected to strengthen the Arsenal squad over the summer, with reports suggesting Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech as a potential target.
Wenger, who has now won the FA Cup a record-equal sixth time, told supporters outside at the Emirates Stadium: "We want this to be even more regular. I would just like to thank everybody here, which shows just how great this club is.
"We want more, there is great cohesion inside our group, great quality and a great ambition. In 2015, we have done extremely well, and we want to continue, of course."