Jack Wilshere reveals all on regrets and living the dream at Arsenal

‘I wish I’d listened to the physios more’: Jack Wilshere tells Jamie Redknapp about the biggest regret of his career, ‘living the dream’ as a teen sensation at Arsenal and fighting back at Bournemouth

  • Jack Wilshere sat down with Sportsmail‘s Jamie Redknapp to discuss his career 
  • Now at Bournemouth, Wilshere has reflected back on his pride and frustration 
  • The former Arsenal midfielder spoke about living the dream aged 19 at the club 
  • Wilshere has 34 international caps and was called the future of English football 
  • He is back pain-free and now fully focused on Bournemouth’s promotion hopes 

England may possess an embarrassment of riches in the No 10 slot now, but there was a time when Jack Wilshere was being heralded as the ‘something different’ Fabio Capello needed after the Three Lions’ poor 2010 World Cup.

Wilshere is only 29 and reflects on his 34 caps with pride and regret. His talent was never in doubt – just his fitness. 

Now of Bournemouth, Wilshere sat down with Sportsmail‘s JAMIE REDKNAPP, who knows all about injuries, to discuss his career. Kieran Gill listened in… 

Bournemouth’s Jack Wilshere sat down with Sportsmail‘s Jamie Redknapp to discuss his career

REDKNAPP: When I was new to punditry and you were at Arsenal you once said something that resonated with me. It was after your first ankle injury and I’d maybe not shown too much understanding when speaking about your performance. You approached me afterwards and said: ‘You should know better.’ That stuck with me. I should have.

WILSHERE: If I have a bad game, I’ll be the first to hold my hands up. People in your position get paid to have an opinion and that’s fine if it’s deserved. But it was when I was just coming back.

Injuries are bad enough, but then people question you. You put your social media on and people are at you. I was young, trying to get back to a certain level at a club challenging in the top four. That’s why I said: ‘You should know better.’ You’d been through it. Expectations are high at clubs.

Wilshere recalled approaching Redknapp after the pundit’s comments about his performance

You try your best to come back but can push yourself too early and get found out.

JR: Exactly and I should have known that. I was back in training with Liverpool 10 days after having my meniscus out, which was ridiculous — way too early.

JW: I remember having conversations with the physios in my first year in the Arsenal team. They were like: ‘Look, you’re playing a lot…’ I told them: ‘I want to play.’

I was living the dream. I was 19, playing for Arsenal. We were challenging for the Premier League, in the Champions League. No one was going to tell me I needed a rest. That’s one of my biggest regrets – I wish I’d listened to physios a little more, learned more about my body.

Former Arsenal man Wilshere insists he was ‘living the dream’ playing for the club aged just 19

He has also regretted not listening to physios and learned more about his body growing up

Now everyone wears a GPS. You’re looked after. That wasn’t around when I was younger. I’ve heard many people over the years say I attract the challenge. That’s my game – get the player close, do a one-two, dribble around. I still try to play like that.

But if I could go back and change one thing, it would be to manage the games, manage myself better and listen to the physios more. It’s easy to say now.

JR: Watching you play against Barcelona in 2011 was incredible. You, at 19, versus a midfield of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen. Looking back, was that almost you in your prime?

JW: I remember reading about Michael Owen, how he was in his prime at a young age and it made me think: ‘I don’t want that to be me.’

Wilshere lifted his team-mates after throwing himself into tackles against Barcelona in 2011

In terms of having no problems with my body that was my prime. But I had a few seasons after that where I felt good, too. Everyone remembers that Barcelona win because it was against the best midfield of the last 20 years.

When the draw came out, we were written off. You’re in the tunnel standing next to Lionel Messi. I don’t think we touched the ball for 20 minutes! You’re thinking: ‘This is going to be a long night.’ 

Then I made a big challenge and won the ball before beating Iniesta. It lifted everyone. Even now, I think about moments like that. 

I remember sitting next to Samir Nasri later and he told me: ‘You’ve taken your game to another level now. You need to stay at this level.’ That was a great night. I’m not sure I’d say it was my peak.

JR: I didn’t mean peak in a disrespectful way. You went on to do mesmerising things for Arsenal, like that Norwich goal which none of us will ever forget. But you were just so young at that time. Here was an English kid schooling the brilliant Barcelona. Even Capello was saying you were the future of English football.

Once labelled the future of English football, Wilshere has endured a mixed time internationally

JW: It seemed like that. I was probably the only English midfielder playing at a top club at that age. Now there are so many. I love Phil Foden. I’ve been saying it for years. I told my best mate Benny (Benik Afobe) years ago: ‘Watch Foden.’ 

Foden reminds me – and this is a big compliment – of Messi in the way he drifts with the ball, using his balance. He’s not big and strong but he can take the ball in tight spaces and get out. He can manipulate the ball.

If I was the England manager, he’d be one of the first names on my team sheet. I love watching Jack Grealish and James Maddison as well. They’re different players and it’s a nice problem for Gareth Southgate to have. They’re all comfortable on the ball.

Going back 10 years when I was coming through, people were saying I was different and we were crying out for that. Now we’ve got four or five players who can do it. I do look back at clips, just to get confidence and remind myself of what I can do.

JR: My knee robbed me of more caps. My last England appearance was in 1999, at 26. It’s hard not to think ‘what if?’. Is there regret? 

Wilshere admitted frustration over his time with England but is relishing his current challenge

The 29-year-old admits he looks at old clips of himself playing to remind himself of his abilities

JW: I had a lot of good years in the national team. My last game was against Iceland when we went out of Euro 2016. If someone had said you’ll never play for England again, I’d have been like, ‘No chance’.

It’s frustrating but you have to look back at the years you did have. I played for my country 34 times.

I went to a World Cup, the Euros. You can look back and think, ‘If it wasn’t for injuries, I’d probably still be playing for England’. But you can’t look at it like that.

I’ve got a new challenge now. If someone had asked me 10 years ago, ‘Do you think you’ll be playing in the Championship?’ I’d have said no. But circumstances change and things happen that you can’t control. 

You just have to go with it and enjoy the ride while you’re on it. I don’t want to give up. I want to play for as long as I can, whether that’s in the Championship, the Premier League, the MLS, wherever. I want to play. 

Every single game, every single minute. I’m having conversations with the manager if I don’t play. I’m asking him why.

Now in the Championship at Bournemouth, Wilshere is vocal about his need for match action

Wilshere became Arsenal’s youngest league player at 16 years and 256 days, in 2008. A decade later, he left the club when his contract expired. Here, he explains how it looked as though he was set to stay – until Arsene Wenger announced his own exit.

JW: I joined Bournemouth on loan in 2016 and broke my leg towards the end of that season. When I came back to Arsenal in 2017, I had a year left on my contract. Me and Arsene sat down and he said: ‘The club is not going to give you a new deal. If you can get something somewhere else, you can go.’

I was injured so nothing came up, but I looked at the team and backed myself. I thought – if I can get myself fit, with a manager who trusts me, I’ve got a chance. I did that. I was playing in the EFL Cup, the Europa League, then I was back in the Premier League XI.

Come February 2018, the club offer me a new deal. We’re negotiating, then I find out Arsene is leaving and the contract offered was incentive-based, so I’d have to play. I wanted to wait to see who the next manager was, because what’s the point in signing a contract where I have to play if the new boss isn’t going to play me?

Wilshere left Arsenal in 2018 but looked set to stay until Arsene Wenger revealed his own exit

Wilshere went on to play for West Ham and joined Bournemouth after a call from Jason Tindall

I spoke to Unai Emery and he told me I wasn’t in his plans. It was a difficult decision to leave because of my connection with the club but it was almost made easy because I knew I wasn’t going to play.

JR: Then you go to West Ham.

JW: An easy decision. As a West Ham fan growing up, it was my dream to play for them. I’m thankful I had that chance and got to know the people there. Of course, I wish it had gone differently but again, injuries killed me and I didn’t learn from my past. I overdid it in the first five weeks there.

You know what it’s like being at a new club. You want to train every day with the lads, play as much as you can. David Moyes was always honest with me and that’s all any player can ask. 

Unai Emery replaced Wenger in the Arsenal hot seat and told Wilshere he was not in his plans

Wilshere is fully fit now, having spent the pre-Christmas lockdown running in his local park with his dog. Families out for their stroll did double takes, but Wilshere was without a club and had to keep fit.

JW: Maybe I’d always taken it for granted – the facilities I’ve had as a footballer. All of a sudden I was in the unknown. It gave me that hunger to want to come back.

I never lost faith, never thought, ‘This could be the end’. I backed myself. When I picked up the phone to (former Bournemouth boss) Jason Tindall, I just wanted to come here to train. But as soon as I walked through the door, it felt natural.

JR: Maybe that took you back to basics. It’s like when we were kids scrapping to become footballers. If I see a new pair of Nikes now, I’m adding them to the shopping cart for my boy! 

Wilshere spent time before Christmas training in a local park before signing for Bournemouth

When I was a kid my dad would tell me to get a paper round to save up for new boots.

JW: I remember being at Arsenal, 10 years old and we’re going away for a tournament. On the way to dropping me off, my dad stops and buys me a pair of Vapors. Remember them? They were £140! He was like: ‘Don’t tell your mum’.Our first game in Holland, I come off after 10 minutes. Blisters. Massive. Mum was there. She didn’t talk to Dad for a week.

JR: My dad’s been helping out at Bournemouth as you know. He phoned me to say you’d said thanks to him after training for what he’d said on Sky when we were doing Deadline Day. He described Bournemouth snapping you up as a ‘no brainer’. You’re contracted until the summer. What’s next?

JW: It’s a boring answer but it’s important I focus. I need to play. We need to get this club back in the Premier League. Then I’ll sit down at the end of the season with the club, my agent, and see. I’m open to playing abroad but, at the moment, I want to play. I’m always striving to prove myself. I never want to see myself out of this game. I’ve done my coaching badges. Hopefully I’ve got a few years left but what I do next is at the back of my head.

His future is uncertain, but Wilshere says he will remain focused on his time in the second tier

JR: Jonathan Woodgate will be Bournemouth manager for the rest of the season, but was it strange when Thierry Henry was being linked with the job?

JW: It was strange. Everyone was asking me ‘Is he coming?’ We didn’t know. I didn’t want to say something and then it doesn’t happen. Woodgate has been brilliant with me.

The Sheffield Wednesday game, we lost 2-1 and I was taken off at half-time. He called me into his office: ‘Look, I’ve been there, I’ve had injuries, I know you’re fighting for your career. I’m going to help you. You’re in my plans.’ To hear that gives you trust.

JR: The last six months of my career were at Southampton and it felt like someone was sticking a knife in my knee when I was playing. But my dad was the manager and I wanted to help.

Wilshere has insisted he feels ‘pain-free’ now and believes he must be 100 per cent committed

You’re looking lean now, Jack. How’s the body?

JW: I’ve played through pain in the past and it holds you back. Mentally, too, you’re not focused on the game, only thinking about getting through it. You don’t do yourself justice.

I’m pain-free now. I learned that in our game against Birmingham. George Friend smashed into me. I probably broke a rib. But this is what it’s about. You do have an idea of what the Championship is like but when you play in it – that’s when you realise. You have to be 100 per cent committed or you don’t survive.




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