Once hailed as the “future of English football” Wilshere now finds himself without a club, the once young talent’s story could be a prudent lesson for lenient refereeing rules
If, 10 years ago, someone told you Jack Wilshere would be unable to find employment at a professional football club after turning 29, he or she would have been laughed out of the room.
It is easy to forget just how good young Jack was.
In fact, it was only six years ago when Xavi – yes, THAT Xavi – said: “I see him (Wilshere) as the future of English football. He can go on and be one of the best players in the world.”
Or, he can go on and find himself staring involuntary retirement in the face before reaching the age of 30 – an age when, in the shifting age sands of the modern game, he should be in his pomp.
Wilshere has been talking about his struggles this week.
1990 The Arsenal Football Club Plc)
And before anyone starts scornfully asking how a man who has earned a fortune from the game can have worries, of course he can.
“I think I can (still) play at the … very top,” Wilshere says.
But he cannot really believe that, can he? Let’s be brutally honest here, no-one else does.
And that has to be why he has ‘depressive thoughts’.
Whether or not some of Wilshere’s problems have been self-inflicted, there still has to be an element of bitterness that he is not where the football world expected him to be at this stage of his career.
In particular, Wilshere bemoans the perception he is an injury waiting to happen.
And at this point, it is worth pointing out that a lot of Wilshere’s injuries were indeed ‘waiting to happen’ … but only in the sense that he was waiting for the next enforcer to crock him.
Paddy McNair’s challenge that put him out for three months at the end of 2014, anyone?
That was nothing to do with Wilshere’s brittleness, it was wholly to do with another’s recklessness.
Yes, Wilshere has suffered a lot of injuries but how many have been contact injuries?
Arsene Wenger recently said Wilshere was not protected adequately and he was right.
That is not to say the player himself has been faultless in his approach to professional life but he cannot carry blame for contact injuries.
Which, incidentally, brings us on to a broader point.
It is all well and good applauding the new refereeing philosophy of letting things go but there are livelihoods on the line.
James Tarkowski could have seriously injured Richarlison with his lunge at Goodison Park recently and the fact he went unsanctioned will not dissuade him from producing the same sort of tackle again.
Of course, Wilshere was not averse to a strong challenge and that might have been part of the problem.
But his style seems to have taken its toll and now, after his loan stint at Bournemouth came to an end in May, he is without a club and the only link has been with Serie B club Calcio Como.
Wilshere says he can still prove himself at ‘the very top’ but, realistically, he will surely have to restart at a lower level and work his way back.
And let’s hope he does exactly that.
Because no matter how much you might think he has somehow wasted some of his ability, if we have seen the last of such a talented footballer, it would be a terrible shame.