Jack Wilshere’s willingness to sever ties with Arsenal completely is an expression of the difficulties facing even the most talented English players and yet another statement on the standing of the international game in relation to the club scene.
There was a time when the guaranteed route to England inclusion lay in association with an elite club. These days Wilshere finds Bournemouth is the better bet, a rum commentary on the growing disconnection between the international team and England’s most powerful footballing institutions.
Indeed Friday’s World Cup qualifying fixture against Scotland at Wembley is an anomaly since it is rousing genuine interest, tapping into a tension that no longer attaches to the bog standard qualifying engagement.
Though Wilshere did not train yesterday, one of nine players wrapped in cotton wool by interim coach Gareth Southgate, his return to the squad after an uninterrupted run of games on the south coast suggests he will have some involvement if not a starting berth against Scotland.
It is commendable that representing England features so strongly in Wilshere’s priorities, doubly so given his acceptance that a permanent move away from Arsenal might be the only way to achieve it.
“I love Arsenal, but if there comes a time when I have to leave, then I have to leave. If I go back and I’m still not playing then of course I will have to think about things. At the moment I’m concentrating on Bournemouth.
“I want to put myself in a position where I go back [to Arsenal] next year and I’m a better player and I can play, I’m fitter and I have proved to people I can play week-in and week-out and I’m ready for the challenge. It was a tough decision for me to go out on loan. I could have stayed at Arsenal, been the player that comes on now and again and starts the odd game here and there. But I wanted to prove [things] to people. When it comes to next year, I think I’ll have that experience. I’ve made big decisions and when it comes to my career I’ll have to make another decision.”
Separation has not dented Wilshere’s love of Arsenal or his appreciation of Arsene Wenger. On his days off, he tunes in holding his scarf and rattle cheering them on in pursuit of a 14th league title.
“Of course I want them to win the league,” he said. “I’ve been there my whole career. We’ve been close a couple of times, never quite got there but for the manager especially, I know that he really believes in that squad
“He has worked hard over the years, taken a lot of stick and yet that’s always been his goal, to win the Premier League. I think he’s got a great chance this year,” added Wilshere
It might alarm older readers to learn that for players of 24-year-old Wilshere’s vintage, Paul Gascoigne’s signature moment against Friday’s opponents is already distant historic rapture dipped in sepia. Wilshere was just four when Gazza celebrated his mesmerising goal at Euro 96 with a simulated drink from the dentist’s chair.
In his teenage years Wilshere might have been tempted to replicate that move for real. In this more mature phase of his career, the tributes to Gascoigne are kept for the pitch, and with it a new appreciation of the genius that was Gazza.
“It takes a special player to try that,” he said. “It’s not just ability but to have that confidence and awareness to see the player coming across and having the ability to chip it over his head and put it in. For me, it is the best goal in the history of this fixture.
“I’ve tried it a few times but my right foot is not as good as his. I’ve never met him but he is someone I looked up to when I was growing up. I’ve watched a lot of Youtube clips and seen his film. He was a special player and, for me, probably England’s best ever.”