This Sunday it will be 12 years since Jack Wilshere – 16 years old but far from a baby face – came into the consciousness of the footballing public.
Arsenal flew to victory against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Three goals ahead, this was the perfect opportunity for Arsene Wenger to introduce the newest child prodigy in English football.
Wilshere duly became Arsenal’s youngest ever league debut when he replaced Robin van Persie with six minutes left. The teenager seemed to have the world at his feet.
Jack Wilshere’s days as a West Ham player seem to be numbered for the new season
Manager David Moyes (left) is desperate for additional funds to use in the transfer market
We all know what happened next. Wilshere never got close to fulfilling his massive potential or scale heights within the game as everyone expected him to.
It’s the classic football story of ‘what could have been’, the sad saga of dreams ravaged by chronic bad luck with injuries, of false dawn of form and fitness, and the strange rashness along the way.
We all then hoped that Wilshere would be in the prime of his career at the age of 28. Instead, it seems more and more likely that the midfielder will be looking for a new club.
Wilshere still has 10 months to fulfill his West Ham contract, but finds himself in discussions to cancel it by mutual consent.
The Hammers want to make better use of his £ 100,000 a week wages by allowing manager David Moyes to bring in some new business before the window closes.
Wilshere has been brutally honest about how his two years at West Ham – after joining a free game from Arsenal in June 2018 – fell substantially short of expectations.
Wilshere played in West Ham’s 2-1 pre-season win over Brentford last month
The midfielder has grafted hard in the preparation, but it looks like he needs another club
WILSHERE IN WEST HAM UNITED
Joined July 9, 2018
Matches: 18 Begins: 8
Goals: 1 Assists: 1
‘It didn’t work out for me, I’ll be honest. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I missed too much football, I didn’t play enough matches, ‘he told Stadium Astro.
“I want to get back on track, get my career back on track, play games week in, week out and feel like a footballer again.”
He played only 18 games and 747 minutes for West Ham in those two years. A goal and an assist was the scarce reward for even more months lost through injury.
Ankle surgery sidelined Wilshere for most of the 2018/19 season, before groin problems ruled him out for most of last season.
Even a return to fitness after the reboot resulted in just 35 minutes. It was abundantly clear that he exceeded Moyes’ plans, and developments from his exit plan confirmed it.
“Work hard in silence and be prepared for what happens next,” Wilshere wrote cryptically on Instagram on Thursday alongside a photo of himself smiling on the training field.
Wilshere entered the market at Arsenal at the beginning of 2008-2009 as a 16-year-old
He was tipped to become a club legend at Arsenal and described as England’s great hope
But Wilshere’s progress has been hindered by a succession of injuries throughout his career
But what happens after that? Wilshere needs to talk about playing time, but given a career with 16 different injuries, which Premier League club will bet on?
Leaving Arsenal for West Ham two years ago seemed like a no-brainer, but things haven’t really moved on.
Wilshere may have to drop a class to the championship to secure that string of games he wants – and that will mean a hefty pay cut.
There are whispers of interest from Major League Soccer in the United States, but it is certainly a little too early for that.
Wherever Wilshere ends up – and there will certainly be a lot of interest – he’s had a change in his injury accident a long time ago.
The midfielder announced himself in 2011 with a brilliant performance against Barcelona
Wilshere made his England debut in August 2010, winning 34 caps for his country
Wilshere came off the bench when England was humiliated by Iceland at Euro 2016
There have been so many forms of form that it seems like Wilshere’s game is gaining momentum again, only for another injury to bring a chilling halt.
Even a year ago, Wilshere enjoyed a series of games for the Hammers. He started in midfield alongside Declan Rice against Manchester City on the opening day of the season, coming off the bench in a win over Manchester United.
Against Newport County in the second round of the Carabao Cup, Wilshere ran the show and scored. Yes, it was only Newport, but it pointed to better things.
Then the groin injury struck – a new problem namely in his extensive collection – and that was half a season in the stands.
With his time at West Ham coming to an end, all Wilshere has in common with that 16-year-old hopeful is that they both wore No. 19.
Wilshere scores against Newport in the Carabao Cup a year ago, but the injury battle loomed again
Sitting with a groin injury most of the season, Wilshere didn’t return to action until June
Wenger summed up his career by saying, ‘He’s only stopped due to a series of injuries.’
Barcelona icon Xavi, who knew a thing or two about running a midfield, once said of him: “If he can overcome injuries, he can go on and become one of the best midfield players in the world.”
Unfortunately that ‘if’ looms over the career of a player who was still 16 when he scored his first Arsenal goal in the League Cup against Sheffield United and made his England debut at the age of 18.
He went on to the 2014 World Cup and was excellent in qualifying for Euro 2016.
Wilshere came into halftime for Eric Dier on that humiliating exit to Iceland after Roy Hodgson controversially picked him out after an injury-ridden season of just three Arsenal appearances.
The midfielder scored the Premier League goal of the season against Norwich in 2013-14
It is actually remarkable given his absence of injury that Wilshere won 34 caps from England, but the club’s highlights were few and far between.
He completed that dazzling action against Norwich in October 2013, winning the Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season match.
It is also often forgotten that he won the following season’s award for a ‘rocket’ from a finish line against West Brom, to quote John Motson.
In total, Wilshere has had 16 different injury problems over the course of his career
But the next sideline spell was never far around the corner, and such breathtaking moments were engulfed in misery and frustration.
Each time Wilshere had to pass ‘Go’ again in his career and here we are again.
Leaving West Ham and moving to a club – any club – that can provide a reliable range of matches when Wilshere is fit and available – as the first choice in midfield – is essential.
He has now recovered from his groin injury and has full preparation to his name. It is hoped that someone will recognize the positive moments from Wilshere’s past and offer him a new chance for the future.