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Is it wrong to still love Giroud

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Macho

Has Trust Issues With Processes
Trusted ✔️
Joe Willock’s future was never going to be settled swiftly this summer. And Steve Bruce knew it.

Uncertainty at parent club Arsenal, even more unknowns at suitors Newcastle United and the midfielder’s own indecision were just some of the contributing factors as to why this transfer dragged on for three months.

The reason the inactivity was finally broken, allowing Newcastle to conclude the second-most expensive signing in their history, was Mike Ashley. All other incoming business at St James’ Park was placed on hold while the Willock situation remained unresolved, with head coach Bruce awaiting Ashley’s authorisation.

Although it was Ashley who ultimately approved the £20 million-plus purchase, it was also partly down to Newcastle’s owner that Bruce did not land his “No 1 target” until just before their Premier League opener against West Ham United on Sunday. Had Newcastle presented an attractive offer to Arsenal earlier, the transfer may have been agreed sooner. But Willock’s late-season burst of form on loan on Tyneside in April and May — when he scored seven goals in his last seven appearances — had made his return more expensive and therefore less likely.

This being Newcastle, where progress on transfers is rarely anything but glacial, even the breakthrough last weekend of a price being reached did not immediately facilitate a move that club insiders were always confident would happen. Sources cautioned that Willock, who had seemingly expected alternative options to arise after that impressive loan spell, still needed convincing of the career-development path.

Thankfully, following an up-and-down few days of negotiations — during which disagreements arose, including over contract duration and clauses — and after further persuasion, Newcastle’s made the first addition to their squad this summer. A breakthrough was reached overnight on Wednesday and the midfielder travelled to the north east next day.

Willock has joined on a six-year deal and is expected to move into the top pay bracket of earners at Newcastle.

Speaking on Friday, Bruce said: “We’ve had to be patient. We explored the loan situation to begin with but we’ve got him permanently, which is great for us. There were times, I’ll be honest, where I didn’t think it would happen. But credit to Lee (Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director). It’s been worth the wait. My bosses always said if Joe became available, we’d sign him.”

This signing represents a positive move by Newcastle and it brings some much-needed momentum before what is set to be another challenging season.

It has also quelled the growing unease within the Newcastle squad that reinforcements, promised to the club’s top earners when they agreed their contract extensions, were not actually forthcoming.

Joe Willock at Newcastle scores on loan from Arsenal


Willock impressed on loan at Newcastle last season (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
This is also a personal success for Bruce, who has described Willock as “the type of player you’d love to build your team around”. Not only is the head coach enjoying some influence over transfer strategy — Willock was Bruce’s pick — but his tolerant approach to this pursuit also paid off. Eventually.

There was a recognition that, before arbitration over the takeover took place, no significant additions would be made. Yet, even once that hearing was postponed, negotiations with Arsenal barely accelerated. Despite privately growing agitated as the weeks wore on, Bruce did not call out Ashley. Instead, through daily communications with Charnley, he attempted to “manage up”, repeatedly pleading the case to re-sign Willock.

Publicly, Bruce kept reiterating that Newcastle were “very, very short” in midfield — not in terms of numbers, but desired profile — and that they needed to stay patient.

Admittedly, Arsenal’s equivocation did make finding a resolution difficult. For weeks, they did not make their own intentions clear, despite being in regular dialogue with Newcastle.

Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, even opted to give Willock another opportunity during pre-season but determined that he was not integral to his plans.

Ideally, the north London club would still have retained one of their most promising academy products. Few at their London Colney HQ doubt his talent, with one source declaring Willock had all the attributes to “go right to the very top”, but there were some reservations about his application. He was involved in a motoring accident last November and there were a few punctuality issues, too.

There was also a perception that, after his prolific goalscoring run in the spring, and with two years left on his deal, Willock was perhaps at the height of his value. An offer north of £20 million was always going to be considered.

Ultimately, Willock did not feature in the vision Arteta had for his Arsenal team’s progression. Willock had played as a midfielder, a No 10 and as a winger without earning a regular place and did not fit comfortably into a 4-2-3-1, even if he offered something few other Arsenal midfielders do — goals.

The club’s failure to offload Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Alexandre Lacazette also threatened to restrict further incoming business during what is viewed as a crucial window in Arteta’s rebuild. Albert Sambi Lokonga has already arrived, with further midfield reinforcements being targeted.

So, once Newcastle did finally “test Arsenal’s resolve”, as Bruce had promised to, they accepted a sizeable offer for someone who has made only 23 top-flight career starts — with 11 of those coming for Newcastle during his loan last season.

It took so long for Newcastle to mobilise because of their ongoing ownership uncertainty and financial constraints. The surplus that is usually reserved for transfers has been wiped out by COVID-19-enforced losses.

Regardless, Newcastle do not actually have a set “budget”, per se, and will find additional funds for the “right players” — typically those aged under 24, with sell-on potential and quality.

Willock — only 21, and a possible future England international — certainly meets those criteria and, eventually, funds were found.

Quite how is still unclear. Some sources claimed earlier this summer that Newcastle would need to borrow from either Ashley or the bank but there is no confirmation that either has happened.

willock-bruce


Willock with Steve Bruce during his loan spell last season (Photo: Newcastle United/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
It is understood Newcastle also tentatively looked at re-signing Adam Armstrong, their former academy graduate, from Blackburn Rovers. But, instead, they were grateful for the proceeds of their sell-on clause — around 40 per cent of the profit on his recent £15 million move to Southampton. That cash injection may have helped.

Wherever the money to pay Arsenal came from, it only arrived belatedly.

Borrowing Willock again was floated at one stage but, with just two years left on his deal, another loan made little sense to Arsenal. Other targets were even considered — Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher among them — but Bruce was always adamant Willock was the priority and he gambled that a compromise would be reached.

Although Willock was linked with Monaco of France’s Ligue 1 and Crystal Palace, no serious competition arrived, much to the surprise of his camp. Eventually, a fee of more than £20 million was agreed with Newcastle.

Even at that stage, Bruce’s decision to stake Newcastle’s entire window on Willock threatened to backfire.

The third party in this transaction, Willock himself, still required some careful handling. And more than Newcastle thought.

Some sources indicate the player’s preference, initially, was for another loan, given he still retained the dream of becoming an Arsenal regular. “Hopefully, there is more to continue in the future (at Newcastle),” he said in May. “I’m not going to promise anything.”

The midfielder was humbled by his reception on Tyneside, taking the “Maggies”, as he affectionately calls Newcastle fans, to heart. He enjoyed visiting the north east coast, is said to have “loved” his half-season at Newcastle and was receptive to a return, especially on loan.

But, once it became clear that a permanent move to Newcastle was the only realistic solution, some sources say his name was floated to other clubs.

The exact provisions in his Newcastle contract also took time to be agreed during talks between Charnley, Willock, and the player’s father, Charles. Some sources claimed the player wanted to become Newcastle’s top earner, on a weekly six-figure sum, but others dismiss that money was a key issue.

Others cited alternative hitches. The contract length and a possible buyout clause were both mentioned and led to prolonged deliberations.

It is understood that, since Ayoze Perez moved to Leicester City in the summer of 2019 for £30 million due to a provision in his deal, Newcastle have regularly inserted punitive buyout clauses into contracts. Miguel Almiron, for example, has one, which his agent describes as “high”.

Newcastle are thought to have wanted a similar mechanism included in Willock’s arrangement, but that is unlikely to have appealed to the player and it is not clear if the club were successful.

The club proposed a six-year contract but Willock is thought to have preferred a slightly shorter agreement. Eventually, Newcastle got their way on the duration but concessions were made to Willock on other elements.

Following those delicate discussions, Willock was confirmed as the second-most expensive acquisition in Newcastle’s history, behind Joelinton, who cost £40 million.

And Willock really feels like a statement signing. Both to the supporters — who have had little to get excited about — and also to Newcastle’s senior players. When the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Martin Dubravka signed long-term extensions, they were promised further “quality” additions would be made. As pre-season passed without any such arrivals, some players expressed frustration that the squad was actually weaker than when last season ended in May.


Many Newcastle players had retained contact with Willock over the summer, including Jacob Murphy, asking if he was coming back.

Saint-Maximin, especially, was desperate to be reunited with Willock. The pair have struck up a friendship and met on holiday in Mykonos, Greece. In May, Saint-Maximin described his partnership with Willock as being “like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min at Tottenham“. The Frenchman added: “We have to buy more players like Joe Willock, he can be really great for the team and me.”

It was a clear indication that, should Willock re-sign, Saint-Maximin would be more inclined to stay. It was a sentiment that, sources claim, was shared by other senior players.

Sources close to the dressing room describe the mood at the training ground as being “relieved and enthused” by Willock’s return, although there is a feeling that further reinforcements must follow him through the door.

Beyond Willock, Bruce is still keen to add a “No 6” and a left-sided centre-back, or a versatile player who can cover both those positions. Jens-Lys Cajuste, the 22-year-old Midtjylland holding player, and Marseille’s versatile defender/midfielder Boubacar Kamara, 21, are both highly rated by Newcastle’s scouting team.

Jens-Lys Cajuste, Newcastle


Cajuste, the Midtjylland and Sweden midfielder (Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
Recruitment sources have indicated throughout the summer that Newcastle can only afford one permanent deal and two loans in this window, although there have been whispers that Willock has been financed independently, meaning other cash arrivals may not be possible.

But, even if further faces do arrive before the August 31 deadline, none will be as well-received as Willock.

His adoration on Tyneside is all the more remarkable given that he was actually an underwhelming deadline-day addition at the end of this year’s winter window. Jesse Lingard, of Manchester United, had been Bruce’s first-choice loan signing but went on loan to West Ham instead three days earlier. Willock scored a debut goal in a 3-2 win over Southampton, then struggled throughout March, only to then embark on his magnificent late-season burst of goals.

In just 980 minutes, across 14 appearances and only those 11 starts, Willock scored eight times. But he brought far more to Newcastle than just goals.



Willock for Newcastle, 20-21
METRIC2020-21
Minutes played980
Goals per 900.73
Non-penalty goals per 900.59
Minutes per goals122.5
xG per 900.39
xG excluding pens per 900.32
Shots per 901.7
Shots on target per 901.2
Touches per 9042.6
Touches in opp box per 903.8
% of touches in opp box8.8%


Bruce had sought a midfielder with dynamism and athleticism, someone who could drive forward, press high and offer a threat. Although Willock did not necessarily fit into Arteta’s 4-2-3-1, he is ideally suited to being one of two “No 8s” in Newcastle’s 5-3-2. The system draws the best out of Willock, allowing him to roam forward and ghost into the box late while reducing his defensive responsibilities.

As a former England Under-21 international, he will hope joining Newcastle helps his senior international chances, too. The opportunity to continue working under Graeme Jones, the club’s assistant coach who was part of Gareth Southgate’s European Championship backroom staff this summer, may have been another factor in coaxing Willock back.

Yet caution and patience are necessary.

Some view the outlay on Willock as astute business, others cite the fact he only made 12 top-flight starts for Arsenal. He was also deemed surplus to requirements by a club who finished eighth last season, just four places above Newcastle, and there was no serious rival interest in him this summer.

Unreasonable expectations should not be placed upon him. Willock remains raw and will have spells of inconsistency at Newcastle. He already has, in fact, including being dropped from the starting XI throughout April. He will undoubtedly improve the side, but is highly unlikely to score at such a rate long term, nor is he required to.

Yet, as The Athletic columnist and Newcastle United royalty Alan Shearer has previously declared, Willock is “vital” to their team. Not only does he strengthen the first XI, he also generates a degree of much-needed positivity as the new season begins.

In May, when Newcastle fans sang for Willock “to stay”, they had hoped for a swift resolution.

Instead, while it’s been three months and a turbulent transfer saga, both they and Bruce have finally got their wish.

 

Macho

Has Trust Issues With Processes
Trusted ✔️


David Ornstein 45m ago

It is a few days into the new Premier League season and if life had worked out as he anticipated, Jack Wilshere would be at training with his team-mates in preparation for their club’s next fixture.
But life has not gone to plan. Currently, there are no team-mates. There is no club. No next fixture.
“Being honest, I probably never thought I’d be in this position,” Wilshere acknowledges, solemnly.
“Today I was running around an athletics track and struggling to imagine I would be here at this point in my career. Everyone used to say to me, ‘(At) 28, 29… you’ll be at the peak of your career’. And I genuinely thought I would. I thought I’d still be playing for England, (that) I’d be at a top club.”

Instead, the boy who seemingly had the world at his feet, the great hope for a country desperately lacking such footballers, is without even an offer of employment at age 29.
How has it come to this for someone that made his Arsenal debut aged 16, outshone Barcelona three years later, won two FA Cups and wore the Three Lions in successive major tournaments?
That is a question Wilshere asks himself on a regular basis and while he knows the likely answer, it remains incredibly tough to stomach.
This is not, in his mind, how the story was meant to unfold.

Despite arriving at The Athletic’s London office wearing a black baseball cap that hides much of his face, Wilshere is instantly spotted by a passer-by.
The man, an Arsenal fan, reminisces about the midfielder’s spell at the Emirates Stadium and checks when he might be seen back on a pitch.

Wilshere emerges smiling but with a glint of sadness in his eyes, an emotion evident throughout a couple of hours in the 29-year-old’s company. He later mentions how encounters like that occur roughly 15 times per day for him, which may be frustrating but indicates the level of interest he generates.
Nowhere is that interest stronger than within Wilshere’s own family and particularly among his four children; Archie and Delilah from a previous relationship, Siena and Jack Junior with wife Andriani.
“My kids are at an age where they understand. Especially Archie, who’s nine. He’s actually having conversations with me, saying, ‘What about the MLS?’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing in La Liga?’

DOB00015-scaled.jpg


Wilshere with David Ornstein in The Athletic’s London office (Photo: Don Ma)

“He loves football. He knows everything about football. And it is difficult to explain to him. He’ll say to me, ‘How come no club wants you?’ I don’t know. But how do I explain that to him?
“They’ve got friends at school and you know what kids can be like, they can be quite brutal. ‘Why is your dad not working? Is he not good enough? Is he not good at football?’ Yeah, that’s tough.
“I’ve got two younger kids (Siena and Jack Jnr) who have never really seen me play football. When I go to training in the morning on my own and I kiss them and say, ‘I’m going training’, they don’t actually know what I do. They’re probably thinking, ‘Where’s he going? What is his job?’

“The older two remember the Arsenal days, they remember watching me play for England. In a way, it’s quite nice to have that — they can see it on YouTube and when I go out, people recognise me. The most difficult part is trying to explain when they ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just sign for a club in England?’ I’m like, ‘Well, no one wants me’, and they can’t really get their head around it.”

Occasionally, it crosses a line. Wilshere recalls the day when Archie came home from school upset after another pupil referred to his dad as “Jack Wheelchair”. Wilshere confronted the boy’s father about the incident, not because he was personally hurt but due to the impact it had on his son.
The mockery, of course, relates to the injuries that have blighted Wilshere’s career.

The problems began a decade ago when he damaged an ankle at the end of a campaign (2010-11) that featured 54 appearances across the ages of 18 and 19. Since then, there have been a catalogue of issues.
Although he fought back each time and there were many special moments along the way — like winning Premier League goal of the season award after an iconic effort against Norwich City in October 2013 and starring for England in Euro 2016 qualifying — his full potential has not been realised.

Leaving Arsenal for West Ham United in 2018 was supposed to provide the kickstart Wilshere required upon entering his theoretical prime years, however the reality proved markedly different and he agreed to exit the London Stadium by mutual consent 12 months before the end of a three-year contract having started only six league games for West Ham.

“Honestly, I should have never left,” Wilshere concedes, recalling the summer Arsenal appointed Unai Emery to replace Arsenal Wenger as manager after 22 years in charge. “That’s nothing against West Ham — it could have been anyone — but I shouldn’t have left Arsenal.

“I had a conversation with Arsène when I came back from Bournemouth (following a 2016-2017 loan, with 12 months left on his Arsenal terms). He said, ‘Look, you can leave. You’re not going to get a new contract here’. (But) Knowing Arsène the way I knew him and how much he rated me as a footballer, I knew if I got myself fit there were lots of games and I could get myself into that team.

“I wish I had that same mentality when I sat down with Emery and he said, ‘Look, there’s a contract on the table but you’re not in my starting XI’. I remember walking out angry, because I thought I was going to play — I proved myself the year before. I probably made a few rash decisions. I rang my agent and said, ‘That’s it, we need to leave’. I should have taken a few days, calmed down and thought to myself again, ‘I look around this midfield and back myself to get in’.”

After leaving West Ham, Wilshere trained alone until re-joining Bournemouth, by then a Championship club, on a short-term basis in January of this year. But his deal there was not extended and opportunities have since been scarce.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned; of course I’m concerned,” he says. “I was in this position when I left West Ham and it was horrible. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. I went to Bournemouth, played some games (17, with 11 starts) and I thought that would be enough to show people I am fit. But it clearly wasn’t, because I don’t have any offers. That definitely concerns me.”

Pre-season was completed with an unnamed club and while they spoke about him signing, ultimately it did not suit either party. Wilshere suffered another setback by testing positive for COVID-19, so he must now get back up to speed and prepare in the best way he can for any suitable openings. That is easier said than done and the longer the status quo persists, the more trying it becomes.

As a temporary silence falls in the room where we’re talking, it feels fair to ask if Wilshere’s time on the pitch could be drawing to a close.

“Yeah, that does cross my mind quite a lot,” he admits. “When you’re at a club and training every day, you wake up and if you’re not in a team, or even if you are in the team, you think, ‘Right, I’ve got to train well today. I need to show the manager I’m ready for the weekend’. I don’t have that.

“So I’m waking up in the mornings at the moment and I’m thinking, ‘Right, I need to go and train somewhere’. Normally it’s on my own… OK, I’ve been training with a club in pre-season but that’s finished now. I’m back to waking up, training on my own and finding that motivation.
“And the question I keep asking myself at the moment is: What am I doing it for?
“When I left West Ham and I was trying to find somewhere I thought, ‘Right, it’s going to come, it’s going to come’. But it’s not coming at the minute. And so now I’m waking up thinking, ‘I need to train today, but why do I need to train today?’ I want to find a club but is it going to happen?
“I had a conversation with my wife the other day. It was just before we went to bed and I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve got to train tomorrow but why am I training? Should I just try and focus on something else? Like, I can be a coach or I’ve just got on to the course to do my A Licence so I could start focusing on that’. She said to me, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t. You’re too good’.

“I said, ‘You say I’m too good but if I was too good someone would come and at least give me a chance, let me go and train there or let me try and prove myself to them’.
“At what point do I say, ‘Enough is enough?’ I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll keep going until…
“I said to my agent I don’t want to be in that position where I’m waiting and waiting and before you know it January comes and I’ve almost wasted another season. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want that. I did that last year, so to do it again… I feel like I’d be wasting my time.”

So where does Wilshere — he of unquestionably elite ability and 34 England caps — go from here?
It is surprising to hear him suggest a move overseas as potentially the only credible option.
“I do feel a little bit like the door in this country has been shut on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the injury history and people getting references from places. I feel like that’s unfair.
“But it is what it is. I’ve said before that I’m open to going abroad. In fact, I probably want to go abroad. I want to try something different. I think it’ll be good for me, for my life, for my family. Have a fresh start somewhere where people, clubs, fans don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s going to get injured today’, or, ‘He’ll play five games and that’s it… waste of an investment’.

“The last time I had an injury was in January 2020. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, his ankle, his ankle’. It wasn’t my ankle. I had a hernia, which is a standard injury. It was a 10-day turnaround and then unfortunately lockdown came. But I built myself up and had a really good base of fitness.

Wilshere


Wilshere in action against Barcelona (Photo: AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Ever since we came back, when I was at West Ham, I haven’t missed a session. I had a period of time out of the game, where I trained every day, and then went to Bournemouth. I was available for every game, every training session. So I’m fit and ready but to prove that, you need to be given the opportunity to play games. I had that at Bournemouth and I didn’t even get a little knock.

“People might think I’m saying this just because I’m trying to find a club, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my body. That’s me managing myself, going through injuries, doing certain rehab programmes and exercises that people told me to do, (which) didn’t work, only made me worse and further down the line I’d break down. I’ve had to go through that and learn to get to where I am today.
“If you told me five years ago to run around an athletics track, I’d have said, ‘No chance’, because of the surface. Now I know what I need to do. I feel really good and I’m being 100 per cent genuine when I say that. No aches or pains in my body. The only way to test that is by having the intensity of games, of playing against someone bigger and stronger than you.”

At no stage does Wilshere come across as seeking sympathy but when you listen to what he says and appreciate the challenges he is experiencing, it is impossible not to feel he deserves some.
“I’ve had a great career and still have the hunger inside of me,” he adds. “I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got four kids who are healthy and they go to good schools. There will be people who have to wake up at five in the morning just to put food on the table for their kids, so it’s a difficult one. The reality of it is I’m OK, but it still doesn’t stop me from having (depressive) thoughts or struggling with things.

“My next move is not about, ‘I need to make money’. It’s about the feeling I’ve got inside, and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid growing up, loving football. It was the early days at Arsenal when I used to love playing, love going out and playing at the Emirates. It’s about trying to get that feeling back of having something to fight for, having those ups and downs in football.

“I don’t know if I’ve been depressed, to be honest, because I’d like to think I’ve never really been depressed. But I’ve never had this feeling either, so I don’t know. I get this low, sinking feeling when I’m on my own, when I’m training alone, when you’re driving in the car on your own, where everything gets on top of you. I’m sure everyone gets that. Someone who has to work 12-hour days just to provide for their family is a different ball game, but I do get that low, sinking feeling.

“What I would say is I still have that hunger in me, somewhere deep in me, that all I want to do is play football. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, poor Jack, he hasn’t got a club,(but) he’s made loads of money out of football, he gets to stay home with his kids’.

“When I wake up in the morning I want to look forward to going to training and being with the lads. I want to get back out on the pitch, especially with the fans now back. I’ve watched every single game that’s been on TV since the start of the season and I want to be part of that, I want that feeling of going out on the pitch, hearing the fans and just being able to play football again.”


Having grown up as a West Ham supporter, Wilshere joined Arsenal aged nine and is not only among their finest ever youth products but continues to hold a firm bond with the club’s followers.
Their decline has been increasingly painful for him to witness; Mikel Arteta’s men are 19th in the Premier League after two games and are not competing in Europe this season, even with the addition of a third UEFA tournament, after finishing eighth.

“It upsets me to see where they are,” Wilshere concludes. “One thing I will say is that I do think Arteta is the right guy. Obviously I see the news, stuff on social media… some people want him out. I think he’s trying to build something and I think it will take time.

“What hurts me the most is that when I was there and we dropped a little bit, we still got into the Champions League (by finishing in the top four). Then when we dropped out of the Champions League, it felt like a massive disappointment — ‘Oh my god, we need to be in Champions League, we need to be challenging’.

“Now, they’re not even challenging for that. They’re not even challenging for a Europa League place, really. But there’s a good group of young players, which I feel is probably the best since me, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs came through. These players need a few years.

Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs


Carl Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sign their contracts with Wenger in 2012 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“The difference is, I came into a team of world-class players and they really helped me: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri. They were all brilliant and I could learn from them.
“That’s why it’s going to take a bit more time because there is more responsibility on these young players. I thought Emile Smith Rowe was the best player on the pitch at Brentford (in the season opener) but he’s going to take more time to develop because he hasn’t got the support system around him that I had.”

@boonthegoon @bingobob @Riou
 

BigPoppaPump

Points Out The Obvious


David Ornstein 45m ago

It is a few days into the new Premier League season and if life had worked out as he anticipated, Jack Wilshere would be at training with his team-mates in preparation for their club’s next fixture.
But life has not gone to plan. Currently, there are no team-mates. There is no club. No next fixture.
“Being honest, I probably never thought I’d be in this position,” Wilshere acknowledges, solemnly.
“Today I was running around an athletics track and struggling to imagine I would be here at this point in my career. Everyone used to say to me, ‘(At) 28, 29… you’ll be at the peak of your career’. And I genuinely thought I would. I thought I’d still be playing for England, (that) I’d be at a top club.”

Instead, the boy who seemingly had the world at his feet, the great hope for a country desperately lacking such footballers, is without even an offer of employment at age 29.
How has it come to this for someone that made his Arsenal debut aged 16, outshone Barcelona three years later, won two FA Cups and wore the Three Lions in successive major tournaments?
That is a question Wilshere asks himself on a regular basis and while he knows the likely answer, it remains incredibly tough to stomach.
This is not, in his mind, how the story was meant to unfold.

Despite arriving at The Athletic’s London office wearing a black baseball cap that hides much of his face, Wilshere is instantly spotted by a passer-by.
The man, an Arsenal fan, reminisces about the midfielder’s spell at the Emirates Stadium and checks when he might be seen back on a pitch.

Wilshere emerges smiling but with a glint of sadness in his eyes, an emotion evident throughout a couple of hours in the 29-year-old’s company. He later mentions how encounters like that occur roughly 15 times per day for him, which may be frustrating but indicates the level of interest he generates.
Nowhere is that interest stronger than within Wilshere’s own family and particularly among his four children; Archie and Delilah from a previous relationship, Siena and Jack Junior with wife Andriani.
“My kids are at an age where they understand. Especially Archie, who’s nine. He’s actually having conversations with me, saying, ‘What about the MLS?’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing in La Liga?’

DOB00015-scaled.jpg


Wilshere with David Ornstein in The Athletic’s London office (Photo: Don Ma)

“He loves football. He knows everything about football. And it is difficult to explain to him. He’ll say to me, ‘How come no club wants you?’ I don’t know. But how do I explain that to him?
“They’ve got friends at school and you know what kids can be like, they can be quite brutal. ‘Why is your dad not working? Is he not good enough? Is he not good at football?’ Yeah, that’s tough.
“I’ve got two younger kids (Siena and Jack Jnr) who have never really seen me play football. When I go to training in the morning on my own and I kiss them and say, ‘I’m going training’, they don’t actually know what I do. They’re probably thinking, ‘Where’s he going? What is his job?’

“The older two remember the Arsenal days, they remember watching me play for England. In a way, it’s quite nice to have that — they can see it on YouTube and when I go out, people recognise me. The most difficult part is trying to explain when they ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just sign for a club in England?’ I’m like, ‘Well, no one wants me’, and they can’t really get their head around it.”

Occasionally, it crosses a line. Wilshere recalls the day when Archie came home from school upset after another pupil referred to his dad as “Jack Wheelchair”. Wilshere confronted the boy’s father about the incident, not because he was personally hurt but due to the impact it had on his son.
The mockery, of course, relates to the injuries that have blighted Wilshere’s career.

The problems began a decade ago when he damaged an ankle at the end of a campaign (2010-11) that featured 54 appearances across the ages of 18 and 19. Since then, there have been a catalogue of issues.
Although he fought back each time and there were many special moments along the way — like winning Premier League goal of the season award after an iconic effort against Norwich City in October 2013 and starring for England in Euro 2016 qualifying — his full potential has not been realised.

Leaving Arsenal for West Ham United in 2018 was supposed to provide the kickstart Wilshere required upon entering his theoretical prime years, however the reality proved markedly different and he agreed to exit the London Stadium by mutual consent 12 months before the end of a three-year contract having started only six league games for West Ham.

“Honestly, I should have never left,” Wilshere concedes, recalling the summer Arsenal appointed Unai Emery to replace Arsenal Wenger as manager after 22 years in charge. “That’s nothing against West Ham — it could have been anyone — but I shouldn’t have left Arsenal.

“I had a conversation with Arsène when I came back from Bournemouth (following a 2016-2017 loan, with 12 months left on his Arsenal terms). He said, ‘Look, you can leave. You’re not going to get a new contract here’. (But) Knowing Arsène the way I knew him and how much he rated me as a footballer, I knew if I got myself fit there were lots of games and I could get myself into that team.

“I wish I had that same mentality when I sat down with Emery and he said, ‘Look, there’s a contract on the table but you’re not in my starting XI’. I remember walking out angry, because I thought I was going to play — I proved myself the year before. I probably made a few rash decisions. I rang my agent and said, ‘That’s it, we need to leave’. I should have taken a few days, calmed down and thought to myself again, ‘I look around this midfield and back myself to get in’.”

After leaving West Ham, Wilshere trained alone until re-joining Bournemouth, by then a Championship club, on a short-term basis in January of this year. But his deal there was not extended and opportunities have since been scarce.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned; of course I’m concerned,” he says. “I was in this position when I left West Ham and it was horrible. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. I went to Bournemouth, played some games (17, with 11 starts) and I thought that would be enough to show people I am fit. But it clearly wasn’t, because I don’t have any offers. That definitely concerns me.”

Pre-season was completed with an unnamed club and while they spoke about him signing, ultimately it did not suit either party. Wilshere suffered another setback by testing positive for COVID-19, so he must now get back up to speed and prepare in the best way he can for any suitable openings. That is easier said than done and the longer the status quo persists, the more trying it becomes.

As a temporary silence falls in the room where we’re talking, it feels fair to ask if Wilshere’s time on the pitch could be drawing to a close.

“Yeah, that does cross my mind quite a lot,” he admits. “When you’re at a club and training every day, you wake up and if you’re not in a team, or even if you are in the team, you think, ‘Right, I’ve got to train well today. I need to show the manager I’m ready for the weekend’. I don’t have that.

“So I’m waking up in the mornings at the moment and I’m thinking, ‘Right, I need to go and train somewhere’. Normally it’s on my own… OK, I’ve been training with a club in pre-season but that’s finished now. I’m back to waking up, training on my own and finding that motivation.
“And the question I keep asking myself at the moment is: What am I doing it for?
“When I left West Ham and I was trying to find somewhere I thought, ‘Right, it’s going to come, it’s going to come’. But it’s not coming at the minute. And so now I’m waking up thinking, ‘I need to train today, but why do I need to train today?’ I want to find a club but is it going to happen?
“I had a conversation with my wife the other day. It was just before we went to bed and I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve got to train tomorrow but why am I training? Should I just try and focus on something else? Like, I can be a coach or I’ve just got on to the course to do my A Licence so I could start focusing on that’. She said to me, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t. You’re too good’.

“I said, ‘You say I’m too good but if I was too good someone would come and at least give me a chance, let me go and train there or let me try and prove myself to them’.
“At what point do I say, ‘Enough is enough?’ I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll keep going until…
“I said to my agent I don’t want to be in that position where I’m waiting and waiting and before you know it January comes and I’ve almost wasted another season. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want that. I did that last year, so to do it again… I feel like I’d be wasting my time.”

So where does Wilshere — he of unquestionably elite ability and 34 England caps — go from here?
It is surprising to hear him suggest a move overseas as potentially the only credible option.
“I do feel a little bit like the door in this country has been shut on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the injury history and people getting references from places. I feel like that’s unfair.
“But it is what it is. I’ve said before that I’m open to going abroad. In fact, I probably want to go abroad. I want to try something different. I think it’ll be good for me, for my life, for my family. Have a fresh start somewhere where people, clubs, fans don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s going to get injured today’, or, ‘He’ll play five games and that’s it… waste of an investment’.

“The last time I had an injury was in January 2020. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, his ankle, his ankle’. It wasn’t my ankle. I had a hernia, which is a standard injury. It was a 10-day turnaround and then unfortunately lockdown came. But I built myself up and had a really good base of fitness.

Wilshere


Wilshere in action against Barcelona (Photo: AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Ever since we came back, when I was at West Ham, I haven’t missed a session. I had a period of time out of the game, where I trained every day, and then went to Bournemouth. I was available for every game, every training session. So I’m fit and ready but to prove that, you need to be given the opportunity to play games. I had that at Bournemouth and I didn’t even get a little knock.

“People might think I’m saying this just because I’m trying to find a club, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my body. That’s me managing myself, going through injuries, doing certain rehab programmes and exercises that people told me to do, (which) didn’t work, only made me worse and further down the line I’d break down. I’ve had to go through that and learn to get to where I am today.
“If you told me five years ago to run around an athletics track, I’d have said, ‘No chance’, because of the surface. Now I know what I need to do. I feel really good and I’m being 100 per cent genuine when I say that. No aches or pains in my body. The only way to test that is by having the intensity of games, of playing against someone bigger and stronger than you.”

At no stage does Wilshere come across as seeking sympathy but when you listen to what he says and appreciate the challenges he is experiencing, it is impossible not to feel he deserves some.
“I’ve had a great career and still have the hunger inside of me,” he adds. “I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got four kids who are healthy and they go to good schools. There will be people who have to wake up at five in the morning just to put food on the table for their kids, so it’s a difficult one. The reality of it is I’m OK, but it still doesn’t stop me from having (depressive) thoughts or struggling with things.

“My next move is not about, ‘I need to make money’. It’s about the feeling I’ve got inside, and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid growing up, loving football. It was the early days at Arsenal when I used to love playing, love going out and playing at the Emirates. It’s about trying to get that feeling back of having something to fight for, having those ups and downs in football.

“I don’t know if I’ve been depressed, to be honest, because I’d like to think I’ve never really been depressed. But I’ve never had this feeling either, so I don’t know. I get this low, sinking feeling when I’m on my own, when I’m training alone, when you’re driving in the car on your own, where everything gets on top of you. I’m sure everyone gets that. Someone who has to work 12-hour days just to provide for their family is a different ball game, but I do get that low, sinking feeling.

“What I would say is I still have that hunger in me, somewhere deep in me, that all I want to do is play football. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, poor Jack, he hasn’t got a club,(but) he’s made loads of money out of football, he gets to stay home with his kids’.

“When I wake up in the morning I want to look forward to going to training and being with the lads. I want to get back out on the pitch, especially with the fans now back. I’ve watched every single game that’s been on TV since the start of the season and I want to be part of that, I want that feeling of going out on the pitch, hearing the fans and just being able to play football again.”


Having grown up as a West Ham supporter, Wilshere joined Arsenal aged nine and is not only among their finest ever youth products but continues to hold a firm bond with the club’s followers.
Their decline has been increasingly painful for him to witness; Mikel Arteta’s men are 19th in the Premier League after two games and are not competing in Europe this season, even with the addition of a third UEFA tournament, after finishing eighth.

“It upsets me to see where they are,” Wilshere concludes. “One thing I will say is that I do think Arteta is the right guy. Obviously I see the news, stuff on social media… some people want him out. I think he’s trying to build something and I think it will take time.

“What hurts me the most is that when I was there and we dropped a little bit, we still got into the Champions League (by finishing in the top four). Then when we dropped out of the Champions League, it felt like a massive disappointment — ‘Oh my god, we need to be in Champions League, we need to be challenging’.

“Now, they’re not even challenging for that. They’re not even challenging for a Europa League place, really. But there’s a good group of young players, which I feel is probably the best since me, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs came through. These players need a few years.

Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs


Carl Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sign their contracts with Wenger in 2012 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“The difference is, I came into a team of world-class players and they really helped me: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri. They were all brilliant and I could learn from them.
“That’s why it’s going to take a bit more time because there is more responsibility on these young players. I thought Emile Smith Rowe was the best player on the pitch at Brentford (in the season opener) but he’s going to take more time to develop because he hasn’t got the support system around him that I had.”

@boonthegoon @bingobob @Riou
I saw this on twitter and came here, I'm not a very sentimental person but this made me sad. Wilshere is only 29 as well still in his prime, I remember watching him doing some pundit sh*t for the England squad thinking bro you're younger than some of the guys out there like Walker and Tripper and only a year old than Kane. It's actually sad how his career went though I think it's a mixture of injuries and his attitude too.
 

albakos

Arséne Wenger: "I will miss you"
Administrator
I saw this on twitter and came here, I'm not a very sentimental person but this made me sad. Wilshere is only 29 as well still in his prime, I remember watching him doing some pundit sh*t for the England squad thinking bro you're younger than some of the guys out there like Walker and Tripper and only a year old than Kane. It's actually sad how his career went though I think it's a mixture of injuries and his attitude too.
It's troubling that Jack shows signs of depression, but he doesn't seem to realize it yet.

Midtable Mik could provide him a chance to train with our team or the U23, but I doubt he wants someone with a character like Jack anywhere close to Colney
 

yousif_arsenal

King of Twitter Rumours
Moderator
Really depressing to see what happen to Jack no team getting near him because of his injury record i think it time for him and his agents to try aboard he is late stage in his career try league like Germany where things not really about hard tackling and he can express himself more.
 

BigPoppaPump

Points Out The Obvious
It's troubling that Jack shows signs of depression, but he doesn't seem to realize it yet.

Midtable Mik could provide him a chance to train with our team or the U23, but I doubt he wants someone with a character like Jack anywhere close to Colney
I'm pretty sure he knows he has depression he said it himself here, it's just hard because he's rich and successful so he probably feels embarrassed to say it compared to someone who works 12 hours a day and gets up at 5 for a regular wage. But all pain is relative so he shouldn't compare himself to others.

I just wonder why no one wants him? Is it just injuries or has he been poor? This is actually sad.
 

BigPoppaPump

Points Out The Obvious


David Ornstein 45m ago

It is a few days into the new Premier League season and if life had worked out as he anticipated, Jack Wilshere would be at training with his team-mates in preparation for their club’s next fixture.
But life has not gone to plan. Currently, there are no team-mates. There is no club. No next fixture.
“Being honest, I probably never thought I’d be in this position,” Wilshere acknowledges, solemnly.
“Today I was running around an athletics track and struggling to imagine I would be here at this point in my career. Everyone used to say to me, ‘(At) 28, 29… you’ll be at the peak of your career’. And I genuinely thought I would. I thought I’d still be playing for England, (that) I’d be at a top club.”

Instead, the boy who seemingly had the world at his feet, the great hope for a country desperately lacking such footballers, is without even an offer of employment at age 29.
How has it come to this for someone that made his Arsenal debut aged 16, outshone Barcelona three years later, won two FA Cups and wore the Three Lions in successive major tournaments?
That is a question Wilshere asks himself on a regular basis and while he knows the likely answer, it remains incredibly tough to stomach.
This is not, in his mind, how the story was meant to unfold.

Despite arriving at The Athletic’s London office wearing a black baseball cap that hides much of his face, Wilshere is instantly spotted by a passer-by.
The man, an Arsenal fan, reminisces about the midfielder’s spell at the Emirates Stadium and checks when he might be seen back on a pitch.

Wilshere emerges smiling but with a glint of sadness in his eyes, an emotion evident throughout a couple of hours in the 29-year-old’s company. He later mentions how encounters like that occur roughly 15 times per day for him, which may be frustrating but indicates the level of interest he generates.
Nowhere is that interest stronger than within Wilshere’s own family and particularly among his four children; Archie and Delilah from a previous relationship, Siena and Jack Junior with wife Andriani.
“My kids are at an age where they understand. Especially Archie, who’s nine. He’s actually having conversations with me, saying, ‘What about the MLS?’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing in La Liga?’

DOB00015-scaled.jpg


Wilshere with David Ornstein in The Athletic’s London office (Photo: Don Ma)

“He loves football. He knows everything about football. And it is difficult to explain to him. He’ll say to me, ‘How come no club wants you?’ I don’t know. But how do I explain that to him?
“They’ve got friends at school and you know what kids can be like, they can be quite brutal. ‘Why is your dad not working? Is he not good enough? Is he not good at football?’ Yeah, that’s tough.
“I’ve got two younger kids (Siena and Jack Jnr) who have never really seen me play football. When I go to training in the morning on my own and I kiss them and say, ‘I’m going training’, they don’t actually know what I do. They’re probably thinking, ‘Where’s he going? What is his job?’

“The older two remember the Arsenal days, they remember watching me play for England. In a way, it’s quite nice to have that — they can see it on YouTube and when I go out, people recognise me. The most difficult part is trying to explain when they ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just sign for a club in England?’ I’m like, ‘Well, no one wants me’, and they can’t really get their head around it.”

Occasionally, it crosses a line. Wilshere recalls the day when Archie came home from school upset after another pupil referred to his dad as “Jack Wheelchair”. Wilshere confronted the boy’s father about the incident, not because he was personally hurt but due to the impact it had on his son.
The mockery, of course, relates to the injuries that have blighted Wilshere’s career.

The problems began a decade ago when he damaged an ankle at the end of a campaign (2010-11) that featured 54 appearances across the ages of 18 and 19. Since then, there have been a catalogue of issues.
Although he fought back each time and there were many special moments along the way — like winning Premier League goal of the season award after an iconic effort against Norwich City in October 2013 and starring for England in Euro 2016 qualifying — his full potential has not been realised.

Leaving Arsenal for West Ham United in 2018 was supposed to provide the kickstart Wilshere required upon entering his theoretical prime years, however the reality proved markedly different and he agreed to exit the London Stadium by mutual consent 12 months before the end of a three-year contract having started only six league games for West Ham.

“Honestly, I should have never left,” Wilshere concedes, recalling the summer Arsenal appointed Unai Emery to replace Arsenal Wenger as manager after 22 years in charge. “That’s nothing against West Ham — it could have been anyone — but I shouldn’t have left Arsenal.

“I had a conversation with Arsène when I came back from Bournemouth (following a 2016-2017 loan, with 12 months left on his Arsenal terms). He said, ‘Look, you can leave. You’re not going to get a new contract here’. (But) Knowing Arsène the way I knew him and how much he rated me as a footballer, I knew if I got myself fit there were lots of games and I could get myself into that team.

“I wish I had that same mentality when I sat down with Emery and he said, ‘Look, there’s a contract on the table but you’re not in my starting XI’. I remember walking out angry, because I thought I was going to play — I proved myself the year before. I probably made a few rash decisions. I rang my agent and said, ‘That’s it, we need to leave’. I should have taken a few days, calmed down and thought to myself again, ‘I look around this midfield and back myself to get in’.”

After leaving West Ham, Wilshere trained alone until re-joining Bournemouth, by then a Championship club, on a short-term basis in January of this year. But his deal there was not extended and opportunities have since been scarce.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned; of course I’m concerned,” he says. “I was in this position when I left West Ham and it was horrible. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. I went to Bournemouth, played some games (17, with 11 starts) and I thought that would be enough to show people I am fit. But it clearly wasn’t, because I don’t have any offers. That definitely concerns me.”

Pre-season was completed with an unnamed club and while they spoke about him signing, ultimately it did not suit either party. Wilshere suffered another setback by testing positive for COVID-19, so he must now get back up to speed and prepare in the best way he can for any suitable openings. That is easier said than done and the longer the status quo persists, the more trying it becomes.

As a temporary silence falls in the room where we’re talking, it feels fair to ask if Wilshere’s time on the pitch could be drawing to a close.

“Yeah, that does cross my mind quite a lot,” he admits. “When you’re at a club and training every day, you wake up and if you’re not in a team, or even if you are in the team, you think, ‘Right, I’ve got to train well today. I need to show the manager I’m ready for the weekend’. I don’t have that.

“So I’m waking up in the mornings at the moment and I’m thinking, ‘Right, I need to go and train somewhere’. Normally it’s on my own… OK, I’ve been training with a club in pre-season but that’s finished now. I’m back to waking up, training on my own and finding that motivation.
“And the question I keep asking myself at the moment is: What am I doing it for?
“When I left West Ham and I was trying to find somewhere I thought, ‘Right, it’s going to come, it’s going to come’. But it’s not coming at the minute. And so now I’m waking up thinking, ‘I need to train today, but why do I need to train today?’ I want to find a club but is it going to happen?
“I had a conversation with my wife the other day. It was just before we went to bed and I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve got to train tomorrow but why am I training? Should I just try and focus on something else? Like, I can be a coach or I’ve just got on to the course to do my A Licence so I could start focusing on that’. She said to me, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t. You’re too good’.

“I said, ‘You say I’m too good but if I was too good someone would come and at least give me a chance, let me go and train there or let me try and prove myself to them’.
“At what point do I say, ‘Enough is enough?’ I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll keep going until…
“I said to my agent I don’t want to be in that position where I’m waiting and waiting and before you know it January comes and I’ve almost wasted another season. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want that. I did that last year, so to do it again… I feel like I’d be wasting my time.”

So where does Wilshere — he of unquestionably elite ability and 34 England caps — go from here?
It is surprising to hear him suggest a move overseas as potentially the only credible option.
“I do feel a little bit like the door in this country has been shut on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the injury history and people getting references from places. I feel like that’s unfair.
“But it is what it is. I’ve said before that I’m open to going abroad. In fact, I probably want to go abroad. I want to try something different. I think it’ll be good for me, for my life, for my family. Have a fresh start somewhere where people, clubs, fans don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s going to get injured today’, or, ‘He’ll play five games and that’s it… waste of an investment’.

“The last time I had an injury was in January 2020. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, his ankle, his ankle’. It wasn’t my ankle. I had a hernia, which is a standard injury. It was a 10-day turnaround and then unfortunately lockdown came. But I built myself up and had a really good base of fitness.

Wilshere


Wilshere in action against Barcelona (Photo: AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Ever since we came back, when I was at West Ham, I haven’t missed a session. I had a period of time out of the game, where I trained every day, and then went to Bournemouth. I was available for every game, every training session. So I’m fit and ready but to prove that, you need to be given the opportunity to play games. I had that at Bournemouth and I didn’t even get a little knock.

“People might think I’m saying this just because I’m trying to find a club, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my body. That’s me managing myself, going through injuries, doing certain rehab programmes and exercises that people told me to do, (which) didn’t work, only made me worse and further down the line I’d break down. I’ve had to go through that and learn to get to where I am today.
“If you told me five years ago to run around an athletics track, I’d have said, ‘No chance’, because of the surface. Now I know what I need to do. I feel really good and I’m being 100 per cent genuine when I say that. No aches or pains in my body. The only way to test that is by having the intensity of games, of playing against someone bigger and stronger than you.”

At no stage does Wilshere come across as seeking sympathy but when you listen to what he says and appreciate the challenges he is experiencing, it is impossible not to feel he deserves some.
“I’ve had a great career and still have the hunger inside of me,” he adds. “I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got four kids who are healthy and they go to good schools. There will be people who have to wake up at five in the morning just to put food on the table for their kids, so it’s a difficult one. The reality of it is I’m OK, but it still doesn’t stop me from having (depressive) thoughts or struggling with things.

“My next move is not about, ‘I need to make money’. It’s about the feeling I’ve got inside, and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid growing up, loving football. It was the early days at Arsenal when I used to love playing, love going out and playing at the Emirates. It’s about trying to get that feeling back of having something to fight for, having those ups and downs in football.

“I don’t know if I’ve been depressed, to be honest, because I’d like to think I’ve never really been depressed. But I’ve never had this feeling either, so I don’t know. I get this low, sinking feeling when I’m on my own, when I’m training alone, when you’re driving in the car on your own, where everything gets on top of you. I’m sure everyone gets that. Someone who has to work 12-hour days just to provide for their family is a different ball game, but I do get that low, sinking feeling.

“What I would say is I still have that hunger in me, somewhere deep in me, that all I want to do is play football. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, poor Jack, he hasn’t got a club,(but) he’s made loads of money out of football, he gets to stay home with his kids’.

“When I wake up in the morning I want to look forward to going to training and being with the lads. I want to get back out on the pitch, especially with the fans now back. I’ve watched every single game that’s been on TV since the start of the season and I want to be part of that, I want that feeling of going out on the pitch, hearing the fans and just being able to play football again.”


Having grown up as a West Ham supporter, Wilshere joined Arsenal aged nine and is not only among their finest ever youth products but continues to hold a firm bond with the club’s followers.
Their decline has been increasingly painful for him to witness; Mikel Arteta’s men are 19th in the Premier League after two games and are not competing in Europe this season, even with the addition of a third UEFA tournament, after finishing eighth.

“It upsets me to see where they are,” Wilshere concludes. “One thing I will say is that I do think Arteta is the right guy. Obviously I see the news, stuff on social media… some people want him out. I think he’s trying to build something and I think it will take time.

“What hurts me the most is that when I was there and we dropped a little bit, we still got into the Champions League (by finishing in the top four). Then when we dropped out of the Champions League, it felt like a massive disappointment — ‘Oh my god, we need to be in Champions League, we need to be challenging’.

“Now, they’re not even challenging for that. They’re not even challenging for a Europa League place, really. But there’s a good group of young players, which I feel is probably the best since me, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs came through. These players need a few years.

Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs


Carl Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sign their contracts with Wenger in 2012 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“The difference is, I came into a team of world-class players and they really helped me: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri. They were all brilliant and I could learn from them.
“That’s why it’s going to take a bit more time because there is more responsibility on these young players. I thought Emile Smith Rowe was the best player on the pitch at Brentford (in the season opener) but he’s going to take more time to develop because he hasn’t got the support system around him that I had.”

@boonthegoon @bingobob @Riou
What he says about exercises and rehab makes me think Arsenal's medical team back then were awful, felt like they were old and outdated. So many injuries back to back to back for our players and it never let up. Even look at that English Core pic, 4 out of 5 were injury prone and the one that wasn't was dogsh*t anyway and shouldn't have been at Arsenal. I do feel like we made a few of those players more injury prone than they would have been.
 

<<reed>>

Meme Merchant
I remember @Dokaka was fuming about Wilshere's time at West Ham :lol:
He must be really dusted if there is no offer even from the Championship. Or his agent might be doing a poor job.
 

American_Gooner

Not actually American. Unless Di Marzio says so.
Moderator
I'm pretty sure he knows he has depression he said it himself here, it's just hard because he's rich and successful so he probably feels embarrassed to say it compared to someone who works 12 hours a day and gets up at 5 for a regular wage. But all pain is relative so you shouldn't compare yourself to others.

I just wonder why no one wants him? Is it just injuries or has he been poor? This is actually sad.
I read a while ago he had offers from MLS, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Obviously not the same as an English club but it might not be so bad for him.
 

Kav

Well-Known Member
I'm pretty sure he knows he has depression he said it himself here, it's just hard because he's rich and successful so he probably feels embarrassed to say it compared to someone who works 12 hours a day and gets up at 5 for a regular wage. But all pain is relative so he shouldn't compare himself to others.

I just wonder why no one wants him? Is it just injuries or has he been poor? This is actually sad.
Thing about depression is that it doesn’t care about your status or wealth in Life. Trust me when I say it can be so self destructive.

As for Jack, he can do a good job for a team with the right coach and players around him.

Another thing Wenger was known for his kindness and understanding. He often allowed others to train with the team and maintain their fitness during periods like this (Beckham, Henry, Pires, ) just to name a few.
 

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David Ornstein 45m ago

It is a few days into the new Premier League season and if life had worked out as he anticipated, Jack Wilshere would be at training with his team-mates in preparation for their club’s next fixture.
But life has not gone to plan. Currently, there are no team-mates. There is no club. No next fixture.
“Being honest, I probably never thought I’d be in this position,” Wilshere acknowledges, solemnly.
“Today I was running around an athletics track and struggling to imagine I would be here at this point in my career. Everyone used to say to me, ‘(At) 28, 29… you’ll be at the peak of your career’. And I genuinely thought I would. I thought I’d still be playing for England, (that) I’d be at a top club.”

Instead, the boy who seemingly had the world at his feet, the great hope for a country desperately lacking such footballers, is without even an offer of employment at age 29.
How has it come to this for someone that made his Arsenal debut aged 16, outshone Barcelona three years later, won two FA Cups and wore the Three Lions in successive major tournaments?
That is a question Wilshere asks himself on a regular basis and while he knows the likely answer, it remains incredibly tough to stomach.
This is not, in his mind, how the story was meant to unfold.

Despite arriving at The Athletic’s London office wearing a black baseball cap that hides much of his face, Wilshere is instantly spotted by a passer-by.
The man, an Arsenal fan, reminisces about the midfielder’s spell at the Emirates Stadium and checks when he might be seen back on a pitch.

Wilshere emerges smiling but with a glint of sadness in his eyes, an emotion evident throughout a couple of hours in the 29-year-old’s company. He later mentions how encounters like that occur roughly 15 times per day for him, which may be frustrating but indicates the level of interest he generates.
Nowhere is that interest stronger than within Wilshere’s own family and particularly among his four children; Archie and Delilah from a previous relationship, Siena and Jack Junior with wife Andriani.
“My kids are at an age where they understand. Especially Archie, who’s nine. He’s actually having conversations with me, saying, ‘What about the MLS?’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing in La Liga?’

DOB00015-scaled.jpg


Wilshere with David Ornstein in The Athletic’s London office (Photo: Don Ma)

“He loves football. He knows everything about football. And it is difficult to explain to him. He’ll say to me, ‘How come no club wants you?’ I don’t know. But how do I explain that to him?
“They’ve got friends at school and you know what kids can be like, they can be quite brutal. ‘Why is your dad not working? Is he not good enough? Is he not good at football?’ Yeah, that’s tough.
“I’ve got two younger kids (Siena and Jack Jnr) who have never really seen me play football. When I go to training in the morning on my own and I kiss them and say, ‘I’m going training’, they don’t actually know what I do. They’re probably thinking, ‘Where’s he going? What is his job?’

“The older two remember the Arsenal days, they remember watching me play for England. In a way, it’s quite nice to have that — they can see it on YouTube and when I go out, people recognise me. The most difficult part is trying to explain when they ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just sign for a club in England?’ I’m like, ‘Well, no one wants me’, and they can’t really get their head around it.”

Occasionally, it crosses a line. Wilshere recalls the day when Archie came home from school upset after another pupil referred to his dad as “Jack Wheelchair”. Wilshere confronted the boy’s father about the incident, not because he was personally hurt but due to the impact it had on his son.
The mockery, of course, relates to the injuries that have blighted Wilshere’s career.

The problems began a decade ago when he damaged an ankle at the end of a campaign (2010-11) that featured 54 appearances across the ages of 18 and 19. Since then, there have been a catalogue of issues.
Although he fought back each time and there were many special moments along the way — like winning Premier League goal of the season award after an iconic effort against Norwich City in October 2013 and starring for England in Euro 2016 qualifying — his full potential has not been realised.

Leaving Arsenal for West Ham United in 2018 was supposed to provide the kickstart Wilshere required upon entering his theoretical prime years, however the reality proved markedly different and he agreed to exit the London Stadium by mutual consent 12 months before the end of a three-year contract having started only six league games for West Ham.

“Honestly, I should have never left,” Wilshere concedes, recalling the summer Arsenal appointed Unai Emery to replace Arsenal Wenger as manager after 22 years in charge. “That’s nothing against West Ham — it could have been anyone — but I shouldn’t have left Arsenal.

“I had a conversation with Arsène when I came back from Bournemouth (following a 2016-2017 loan, with 12 months left on his Arsenal terms). He said, ‘Look, you can leave. You’re not going to get a new contract here’. (But) Knowing Arsène the way I knew him and how much he rated me as a footballer, I knew if I got myself fit there were lots of games and I could get myself into that team.

“I wish I had that same mentality when I sat down with Emery and he said, ‘Look, there’s a contract on the table but you’re not in my starting XI’. I remember walking out angry, because I thought I was going to play — I proved myself the year before. I probably made a few rash decisions. I rang my agent and said, ‘That’s it, we need to leave’. I should have taken a few days, calmed down and thought to myself again, ‘I look around this midfield and back myself to get in’.”

After leaving West Ham, Wilshere trained alone until re-joining Bournemouth, by then a Championship club, on a short-term basis in January of this year. But his deal there was not extended and opportunities have since been scarce.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned; of course I’m concerned,” he says. “I was in this position when I left West Ham and it was horrible. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. I went to Bournemouth, played some games (17, with 11 starts) and I thought that would be enough to show people I am fit. But it clearly wasn’t, because I don’t have any offers. That definitely concerns me.”

Pre-season was completed with an unnamed club and while they spoke about him signing, ultimately it did not suit either party. Wilshere suffered another setback by testing positive for COVID-19, so he must now get back up to speed and prepare in the best way he can for any suitable openings. That is easier said than done and the longer the status quo persists, the more trying it becomes.

As a temporary silence falls in the room where we’re talking, it feels fair to ask if Wilshere’s time on the pitch could be drawing to a close.

“Yeah, that does cross my mind quite a lot,” he admits. “When you’re at a club and training every day, you wake up and if you’re not in a team, or even if you are in the team, you think, ‘Right, I’ve got to train well today. I need to show the manager I’m ready for the weekend’. I don’t have that.

“So I’m waking up in the mornings at the moment and I’m thinking, ‘Right, I need to go and train somewhere’. Normally it’s on my own… OK, I’ve been training with a club in pre-season but that’s finished now. I’m back to waking up, training on my own and finding that motivation.
“And the question I keep asking myself at the moment is: What am I doing it for?
“When I left West Ham and I was trying to find somewhere I thought, ‘Right, it’s going to come, it’s going to come’. But it’s not coming at the minute. And so now I’m waking up thinking, ‘I need to train today, but why do I need to train today?’ I want to find a club but is it going to happen?
“I had a conversation with my wife the other day. It was just before we went to bed and I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve got to train tomorrow but why am I training? Should I just try and focus on something else? Like, I can be a coach or I’ve just got on to the course to do my A Licence so I could start focusing on that’. She said to me, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t. You’re too good’.

“I said, ‘You say I’m too good but if I was too good someone would come and at least give me a chance, let me go and train there or let me try and prove myself to them’.
“At what point do I say, ‘Enough is enough?’ I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll keep going until…
“I said to my agent I don’t want to be in that position where I’m waiting and waiting and before you know it January comes and I’ve almost wasted another season. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want that. I did that last year, so to do it again… I feel like I’d be wasting my time.”

So where does Wilshere — he of unquestionably elite ability and 34 England caps — go from here?
It is surprising to hear him suggest a move overseas as potentially the only credible option.
“I do feel a little bit like the door in this country has been shut on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the injury history and people getting references from places. I feel like that’s unfair.
“But it is what it is. I’ve said before that I’m open to going abroad. In fact, I probably want to go abroad. I want to try something different. I think it’ll be good for me, for my life, for my family. Have a fresh start somewhere where people, clubs, fans don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s going to get injured today’, or, ‘He’ll play five games and that’s it… waste of an investment’.

“The last time I had an injury was in January 2020. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, his ankle, his ankle’. It wasn’t my ankle. I had a hernia, which is a standard injury. It was a 10-day turnaround and then unfortunately lockdown came. But I built myself up and had a really good base of fitness.

Wilshere


Wilshere in action against Barcelona (Photo: AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Ever since we came back, when I was at West Ham, I haven’t missed a session. I had a period of time out of the game, where I trained every day, and then went to Bournemouth. I was available for every game, every training session. So I’m fit and ready but to prove that, you need to be given the opportunity to play games. I had that at Bournemouth and I didn’t even get a little knock.

“People might think I’m saying this just because I’m trying to find a club, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my body. That’s me managing myself, going through injuries, doing certain rehab programmes and exercises that people told me to do, (which) didn’t work, only made me worse and further down the line I’d break down. I’ve had to go through that and learn to get to where I am today.
“If you told me five years ago to run around an athletics track, I’d have said, ‘No chance’, because of the surface. Now I know what I need to do. I feel really good and I’m being 100 per cent genuine when I say that. No aches or pains in my body. The only way to test that is by having the intensity of games, of playing against someone bigger and stronger than you.”

At no stage does Wilshere come across as seeking sympathy but when you listen to what he says and appreciate the challenges he is experiencing, it is impossible not to feel he deserves some.
“I’ve had a great career and still have the hunger inside of me,” he adds. “I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got four kids who are healthy and they go to good schools. There will be people who have to wake up at five in the morning just to put food on the table for their kids, so it’s a difficult one. The reality of it is I’m OK, but it still doesn’t stop me from having (depressive) thoughts or struggling with things.

“My next move is not about, ‘I need to make money’. It’s about the feeling I’ve got inside, and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid growing up, loving football. It was the early days at Arsenal when I used to love playing, love going out and playing at the Emirates. It’s about trying to get that feeling back of having something to fight for, having those ups and downs in football.

“I don’t know if I’ve been depressed, to be honest, because I’d like to think I’ve never really been depressed. But I’ve never had this feeling either, so I don’t know. I get this low, sinking feeling when I’m on my own, when I’m training alone, when you’re driving in the car on your own, where everything gets on top of you. I’m sure everyone gets that. Someone who has to work 12-hour days just to provide for their family is a different ball game, but I do get that low, sinking feeling.

“What I would say is I still have that hunger in me, somewhere deep in me, that all I want to do is play football. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, poor Jack, he hasn’t got a club,(but) he’s made loads of money out of football, he gets to stay home with his kids’.

“When I wake up in the morning I want to look forward to going to training and being with the lads. I want to get back out on the pitch, especially with the fans now back. I’ve watched every single game that’s been on TV since the start of the season and I want to be part of that, I want that feeling of going out on the pitch, hearing the fans and just being able to play football again.”


Having grown up as a West Ham supporter, Wilshere joined Arsenal aged nine and is not only among their finest ever youth products but continues to hold a firm bond with the club’s followers.
Their decline has been increasingly painful for him to witness; Mikel Arteta’s men are 19th in the Premier League after two games and are not competing in Europe this season, even with the addition of a third UEFA tournament, after finishing eighth.

“It upsets me to see where they are,” Wilshere concludes. “One thing I will say is that I do think Arteta is the right guy. Obviously I see the news, stuff on social media… some people want him out. I think he’s trying to build something and I think it will take time.

“What hurts me the most is that when I was there and we dropped a little bit, we still got into the Champions League (by finishing in the top four). Then when we dropped out of the Champions League, it felt like a massive disappointment — ‘Oh my god, we need to be in Champions League, we need to be challenging’.

“Now, they’re not even challenging for that. They’re not even challenging for a Europa League place, really. But there’s a good group of young players, which I feel is probably the best since me, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs came through. These players need a few years.

Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs


Carl Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sign their contracts with Wenger in 2012 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“The difference is, I came into a team of world-class players and they really helped me: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri. They were all brilliant and I could learn from them.
“That’s why it’s going to take a bit more time because there is more responsibility on these young players. I thought Emile Smith Rowe was the best player on the pitch at Brentford (in the season opener) but he’s going to take more time to develop because he hasn’t got the support system around him that I had.”

@boonthegoon @bingobob @Riou
You’re such a real one
 

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David Ornstein 45m ago

It is a few days into the new Premier League season and if life had worked out as he anticipated, Jack Wilshere would be at training with his team-mates in preparation for their club’s next fixture.
But life has not gone to plan. Currently, there are no team-mates. There is no club. No next fixture.
“Being honest, I probably never thought I’d be in this position,” Wilshere acknowledges, solemnly.
“Today I was running around an athletics track and struggling to imagine I would be here at this point in my career. Everyone used to say to me, ‘(At) 28, 29… you’ll be at the peak of your career’. And I genuinely thought I would. I thought I’d still be playing for England, (that) I’d be at a top club.”

Instead, the boy who seemingly had the world at his feet, the great hope for a country desperately lacking such footballers, is without even an offer of employment at age 29.
How has it come to this for someone that made his Arsenal debut aged 16, outshone Barcelona three years later, won two FA Cups and wore the Three Lions in successive major tournaments?
That is a question Wilshere asks himself on a regular basis and while he knows the likely answer, it remains incredibly tough to stomach.
This is not, in his mind, how the story was meant to unfold.

Despite arriving at The Athletic’s London office wearing a black baseball cap that hides much of his face, Wilshere is instantly spotted by a passer-by.
The man, an Arsenal fan, reminisces about the midfielder’s spell at the Emirates Stadium and checks when he might be seen back on a pitch.

Wilshere emerges smiling but with a glint of sadness in his eyes, an emotion evident throughout a couple of hours in the 29-year-old’s company. He later mentions how encounters like that occur roughly 15 times per day for him, which may be frustrating but indicates the level of interest he generates.
Nowhere is that interest stronger than within Wilshere’s own family and particularly among his four children; Archie and Delilah from a previous relationship, Siena and Jack Junior with wife Andriani.
“My kids are at an age where they understand. Especially Archie, who’s nine. He’s actually having conversations with me, saying, ‘What about the MLS?’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing in La Liga?’

DOB00015-scaled.jpg


Wilshere with David Ornstein in The Athletic’s London office (Photo: Don Ma)

“He loves football. He knows everything about football. And it is difficult to explain to him. He’ll say to me, ‘How come no club wants you?’ I don’t know. But how do I explain that to him?
“They’ve got friends at school and you know what kids can be like, they can be quite brutal. ‘Why is your dad not working? Is he not good enough? Is he not good at football?’ Yeah, that’s tough.
“I’ve got two younger kids (Siena and Jack Jnr) who have never really seen me play football. When I go to training in the morning on my own and I kiss them and say, ‘I’m going training’, they don’t actually know what I do. They’re probably thinking, ‘Where’s he going? What is his job?’

“The older two remember the Arsenal days, they remember watching me play for England. In a way, it’s quite nice to have that — they can see it on YouTube and when I go out, people recognise me. The most difficult part is trying to explain when they ask, ‘Well, why don’t you just sign for a club in England?’ I’m like, ‘Well, no one wants me’, and they can’t really get their head around it.”

Occasionally, it crosses a line. Wilshere recalls the day when Archie came home from school upset after another pupil referred to his dad as “Jack Wheelchair”. Wilshere confronted the boy’s father about the incident, not because he was personally hurt but due to the impact it had on his son.
The mockery, of course, relates to the injuries that have blighted Wilshere’s career.

The problems began a decade ago when he damaged an ankle at the end of a campaign (2010-11) that featured 54 appearances across the ages of 18 and 19. Since then, there have been a catalogue of issues.
Although he fought back each time and there were many special moments along the way — like winning Premier League goal of the season award after an iconic effort against Norwich City in October 2013 and starring for England in Euro 2016 qualifying — his full potential has not been realised.

Leaving Arsenal for West Ham United in 2018 was supposed to provide the kickstart Wilshere required upon entering his theoretical prime years, however the reality proved markedly different and he agreed to exit the London Stadium by mutual consent 12 months before the end of a three-year contract having started only six league games for West Ham.

“Honestly, I should have never left,” Wilshere concedes, recalling the summer Arsenal appointed Unai Emery to replace Arsenal Wenger as manager after 22 years in charge. “That’s nothing against West Ham — it could have been anyone — but I shouldn’t have left Arsenal.

“I had a conversation with Arsène when I came back from Bournemouth (following a 2016-2017 loan, with 12 months left on his Arsenal terms). He said, ‘Look, you can leave. You’re not going to get a new contract here’. (But) Knowing Arsène the way I knew him and how much he rated me as a footballer, I knew if I got myself fit there were lots of games and I could get myself into that team.

“I wish I had that same mentality when I sat down with Emery and he said, ‘Look, there’s a contract on the table but you’re not in my starting XI’. I remember walking out angry, because I thought I was going to play — I proved myself the year before. I probably made a few rash decisions. I rang my agent and said, ‘That’s it, we need to leave’. I should have taken a few days, calmed down and thought to myself again, ‘I look around this midfield and back myself to get in’.”

After leaving West Ham, Wilshere trained alone until re-joining Bournemouth, by then a Championship club, on a short-term basis in January of this year. But his deal there was not extended and opportunities have since been scarce.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned; of course I’m concerned,” he says. “I was in this position when I left West Ham and it was horrible. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. I went to Bournemouth, played some games (17, with 11 starts) and I thought that would be enough to show people I am fit. But it clearly wasn’t, because I don’t have any offers. That definitely concerns me.”

Pre-season was completed with an unnamed club and while they spoke about him signing, ultimately it did not suit either party. Wilshere suffered another setback by testing positive for COVID-19, so he must now get back up to speed and prepare in the best way he can for any suitable openings. That is easier said than done and the longer the status quo persists, the more trying it becomes.

As a temporary silence falls in the room where we’re talking, it feels fair to ask if Wilshere’s time on the pitch could be drawing to a close.

“Yeah, that does cross my mind quite a lot,” he admits. “When you’re at a club and training every day, you wake up and if you’re not in a team, or even if you are in the team, you think, ‘Right, I’ve got to train well today. I need to show the manager I’m ready for the weekend’. I don’t have that.

“So I’m waking up in the mornings at the moment and I’m thinking, ‘Right, I need to go and train somewhere’. Normally it’s on my own… OK, I’ve been training with a club in pre-season but that’s finished now. I’m back to waking up, training on my own and finding that motivation.
“And the question I keep asking myself at the moment is: What am I doing it for?
“When I left West Ham and I was trying to find somewhere I thought, ‘Right, it’s going to come, it’s going to come’. But it’s not coming at the minute. And so now I’m waking up thinking, ‘I need to train today, but why do I need to train today?’ I want to find a club but is it going to happen?
“I had a conversation with my wife the other day. It was just before we went to bed and I said to her, ‘Look, I’ve got to train tomorrow but why am I training? Should I just try and focus on something else? Like, I can be a coach or I’ve just got on to the course to do my A Licence so I could start focusing on that’. She said to me, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t. You’re too good’.

“I said, ‘You say I’m too good but if I was too good someone would come and at least give me a chance, let me go and train there or let me try and prove myself to them’.
“At what point do I say, ‘Enough is enough?’ I don’t know, to be honest. I’ll keep going until…
“I said to my agent I don’t want to be in that position where I’m waiting and waiting and before you know it January comes and I’ve almost wasted another season. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want that. I did that last year, so to do it again… I feel like I’d be wasting my time.”

So where does Wilshere — he of unquestionably elite ability and 34 England caps — go from here?
It is surprising to hear him suggest a move overseas as potentially the only credible option.
“I do feel a little bit like the door in this country has been shut on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of the injury history and people getting references from places. I feel like that’s unfair.
“But it is what it is. I’ve said before that I’m open to going abroad. In fact, I probably want to go abroad. I want to try something different. I think it’ll be good for me, for my life, for my family. Have a fresh start somewhere where people, clubs, fans don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s Jack Wilshere. He’s going to get injured today’, or, ‘He’ll play five games and that’s it… waste of an investment’.

“The last time I had an injury was in January 2020. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, his ankle, his ankle’. It wasn’t my ankle. I had a hernia, which is a standard injury. It was a 10-day turnaround and then unfortunately lockdown came. But I built myself up and had a really good base of fitness.

Wilshere


Wilshere in action against Barcelona (Photo: AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Ever since we came back, when I was at West Ham, I haven’t missed a session. I had a period of time out of the game, where I trained every day, and then went to Bournemouth. I was available for every game, every training session. So I’m fit and ready but to prove that, you need to be given the opportunity to play games. I had that at Bournemouth and I didn’t even get a little knock.

“People might think I’m saying this just because I’m trying to find a club, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my body. That’s me managing myself, going through injuries, doing certain rehab programmes and exercises that people told me to do, (which) didn’t work, only made me worse and further down the line I’d break down. I’ve had to go through that and learn to get to where I am today.
“If you told me five years ago to run around an athletics track, I’d have said, ‘No chance’, because of the surface. Now I know what I need to do. I feel really good and I’m being 100 per cent genuine when I say that. No aches or pains in my body. The only way to test that is by having the intensity of games, of playing against someone bigger and stronger than you.”

At no stage does Wilshere come across as seeking sympathy but when you listen to what he says and appreciate the challenges he is experiencing, it is impossible not to feel he deserves some.
“I’ve had a great career and still have the hunger inside of me,” he adds. “I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got four kids who are healthy and they go to good schools. There will be people who have to wake up at five in the morning just to put food on the table for their kids, so it’s a difficult one. The reality of it is I’m OK, but it still doesn’t stop me from having (depressive) thoughts or struggling with things.

“My next move is not about, ‘I need to make money’. It’s about the feeling I’ve got inside, and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid growing up, loving football. It was the early days at Arsenal when I used to love playing, love going out and playing at the Emirates. It’s about trying to get that feeling back of having something to fight for, having those ups and downs in football.

“I don’t know if I’ve been depressed, to be honest, because I’d like to think I’ve never really been depressed. But I’ve never had this feeling either, so I don’t know. I get this low, sinking feeling when I’m on my own, when I’m training alone, when you’re driving in the car on your own, where everything gets on top of you. I’m sure everyone gets that. Someone who has to work 12-hour days just to provide for their family is a different ball game, but I do get that low, sinking feeling.

“What I would say is I still have that hunger in me, somewhere deep in me, that all I want to do is play football. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh look, poor Jack, he hasn’t got a club,(but) he’s made loads of money out of football, he gets to stay home with his kids’.

“When I wake up in the morning I want to look forward to going to training and being with the lads. I want to get back out on the pitch, especially with the fans now back. I’ve watched every single game that’s been on TV since the start of the season and I want to be part of that, I want that feeling of going out on the pitch, hearing the fans and just being able to play football again.”


Having grown up as a West Ham supporter, Wilshere joined Arsenal aged nine and is not only among their finest ever youth products but continues to hold a firm bond with the club’s followers.
Their decline has been increasingly painful for him to witness; Mikel Arteta’s men are 19th in the Premier League after two games and are not competing in Europe this season, even with the addition of a third UEFA tournament, after finishing eighth.

“It upsets me to see where they are,” Wilshere concludes. “One thing I will say is that I do think Arteta is the right guy. Obviously I see the news, stuff on social media… some people want him out. I think he’s trying to build something and I think it will take time.

“What hurts me the most is that when I was there and we dropped a little bit, we still got into the Champions League (by finishing in the top four). Then when we dropped out of the Champions League, it felt like a massive disappointment — ‘Oh my god, we need to be in Champions League, we need to be challenging’.

“Now, they’re not even challenging for that. They’re not even challenging for a Europa League place, really. But there’s a good group of young players, which I feel is probably the best since me, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs came through. These players need a few years.

Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs


Carl Jenkinson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sign their contracts with Wenger in 2012 (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“The difference is, I came into a team of world-class players and they really helped me: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri. They were all brilliant and I could learn from them.
“That’s why it’s going to take a bit more time because there is more responsibility on these young players. I thought Emile Smith Rowe was the best player on the pitch at Brentford (in the season opener) but he’s going to take more time to develop because he hasn’t got the support system around him that I had.”

@boonthegoon @bingobob @Riou
Ngl when I read that opening line I thought it was gonna read:

‘My son says to me: How come Arsenal are ****?’
 
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