It feels less than a moment ago since a fresh faced Jack Wilshere wrote his name into the record books by overhauling previous talisman Cesc Fabregas as Arsenal’s youngest ever player at the tender age of just 16 years and 265 days. By replacing future captain Robin van Persie in the lapsing minutes of a comprehensive Premier League win at Ewood Park, there the midfielder in turn became one of the most talked about young footballers in the Football League.
A player much in the same mould of his Spanish predecessor, Wilshere showed an immediate sign of things to come. His first Premier League bout was eagerly awaited by Arsenal followers and students of the game alike who had become increasingly aware of the midfielder’s impelling potential. Those who had closely monitored his head turning youth career had found great reason for hope and promise – hope that the teenager would develop into the continental playmaker that England had been crying out for for so long. Was this the dawn of a new breed of the English footballer?
Five years on and, injuries aside, few would argue that the Hertfordshire-born player has failed to justify the attention. A regular England international under both Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello – the latter who claimed at the time that 19 year old Wishere was the most exciting young midfield talent he had ever seen and had even earmarked the Londoner as the heir to the England captaincy upon completion of just his fourth full cap – some praise from a manager as shrewd and unforgiving as the Italian.
On a club level, he is now arguably the first name on Arsene Wenger’s team sheet when fit – fitness related qualms being the ever-increasing weight on the midfielder’s young shoulders. If you were to type ‘Jack Wilshere injury’ into a web search, you would be presented with a list of results longer than Wenger’s match day overcoat. This growing portfolio of injuries has inevitably landed the England international with the ‘injury-prone’ tag, a label previously carried by an illustrious line including former West Ham wonder kid Joe Cole and more recently Michael Johnson, formerly a hot prospect at Manchester City who has now found himself without a club. He will be desperate to dethrone himself of this tag as quickly as possible to ensure that the inflating weight of expectancy resting on his shoulders is not replaced by a chip filled with regret and echoing sighs of ‘what could have been?’