Tottenham's Bale: Walcott didn't quit Southampton too early

Tottenham fullback Gareth Bale insists Arsenal winger Theo Walcott didn't leave Southampton too soon.

The former Saints teammates are set to face-off today and Bale told the Guardian: "He'd done so well in the first half of his first season at Southampton and felt he was ready to take that next step up. That was his decision, and it got him into the England set-up, so who's to say he was wrong? People say it didn't work out at the World Cup, but that wasn't his fault, was it?

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"He's clearly learning a lot in training - people might not appreciate that - and getting games now. But I just felt I needed that extra bit of time playing in the Championship. It's physically demanding, playing in that league. It's a really long season, and I learned a lot more from playing first-team football.

"Theo felt he wanted to go earlier. He's a brilliant player with a great future ahead of him at a very good club like Arsenal. He'll learn from the best there, and will have picked up a lot already from having worked with Thierry Henry.

"I've never come up against him, so it'd be a test. A good battle. We're still good mates but we decided a few months back that we'd be friends off the pitch, but perhaps not on it. This might be the kind of game Spurs need. Beating Arsenal would be a huge achievement. People talk about the derby, about the bragging rights that are at stake, but it's a pressure game for us. We need those three points. Psychologically, that would be huge after the start we've had. It could turn things around."

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