The talented boy from the Arsenal academy gradually grew and matured, and the fans saw in him the future legend of the club. From the outset, he was treated in a special way.
At 16, he made his senior league debut before making his first base in the League Cup against Sheffield United. He scored a miracle goal from outside the box. Two days later, on his 17th birthday, he signed his first professional contract in the presence of Arsene Wenger, Liam Brady and his parents.
At the age of 18, he watched the Gunners’ match against Barcelona from the stands the Champions League quarterfinals. The British were losing 2-0, but were able to win back two goals. While Wenger called the game “outstanding,” the midfielder couldn’t stop thinking about Xavi’s greatness and the Catalans in midfield.
Then, when Barcelona returned to London, 19-year-old Wilshire gave a master class. His teammates could not keep up with the “roundabout of passes” (as Sir Alex Ferguson said), but Wilshire put Busquets, Iiesta and Xavi to work. Result: victory for the Gunners.
Five months later, Arsenal will head to the US for the preseason. Then, after only seven minutes of playing with the New York Red Bulls, the Englishman hobbled off the field with an ankle injury. No one then could have thought that this was the start of his endless battles with his own body.
He will return, of course. His goal was recognized as the best in 2014, and in 2015, at the FA Cup victory parade, he shouted offensive chants at Tottenham (for which he was fined). Many times it seemed to us that the injuries were left behind, and that Wilshire was about to finally recover.
And then … May 2018, and Wenger’s emotional farewell. Few could then hold back their tears, and especially Jack, who understood that he would follow the Frenchman.
A month ago, when the Premier League calendar was published, it was the game with Arsenal that Wilshire began to look for in the first place. By this time, his life was no longer so easy. It just wasn’t long ago.
West Ham’s season began with a humiliating defeat at Newcastle. Wilshire didn’t even make it to the 18-player squad. In the League Cup, too, nothing shone – again injury. The first in six months after returning to football.
Was he that good at all? Are we talking about another Englishman whose importance and talent was inflated in the media after a couple of outstanding performances?
“This is not at all true,” says Owen Cole, the coach who invited Jack to Bolton in 2010 … – Sometimes someone can play three or four matches, and they are already being lifted to heaven. With Jack it was different: we watched his progress from the very beginning. He was destined to become a world star. I’m sure.
At Bolton, he was excellent. It’s even better at Arsenal. He progressed rapidly and was not only technical, but also smart. He truly loved football and showed qualities that you would not expect from an 18-year-old. ”
It’s true. Wilshire’s technique was unrivaled – as were his vision, his reading of the game, his use of space. Even the most difficult places on the pitch didn’t bother him.
“He was very good when it got crowded,” recalls Queens Park Rangers assistant coach Neil Benfield, who worked at Arsenal. – 18-year-old Jack and 18-year-old Cesc Fabregas were equal. It seemed that we were watching the formation of the future captain of the England national team and Arsenal.
The mention of the England team is no coincidence. When Pep Guardiola was asked about Wilshire in March 2011, he called him an “outstanding player,” but added: “He is lucky because there are many players like him in the reserves at Barcelona. He plays like this because no one expects titles from his team. ”
Considering the events of recent years, the words of the Catalan can be perceived as a compliment, and not as a joke, as was believed then. Indeed, in that Barça there were many similar techies in reserve – for example, Thiago, who moved to Liverpool from Bayern. But England is not Spain, and there aren’t many such sophisticated players with vision. Even now it seems that maybe it was Wilshire who was not enough for the “three lions” to become a real force in the international arena.
The main problem is how Wilshire has missed out on in his career. In the Premier League, he played 182 times on the field – which seems to be good, if you do not think that 50 of these matches occurred between February 2010 and May 2011. He missed the entire 2011-12 season due to injury, and barely played in 2014 -15 (729 out of a possible 3,420 submarine minutes), in 2015-16 (142 minutes), in 2018-19 (392 minutes) and in 2019-20 (215 minutes).
Wilshire was injured, returns, gaining shape, encouraging, and … again. Everyone who worked with him believed in him, but every time the injury happened at the most inopportune moment. When Arsenal, tired of waiting for their player, offered him a new, worsened contract, the Englishman refused. Largely because he followed the precepts of Wenger, who also believed that the midfielder needed a change of scenery. He was a fan of West Ham since childhood, so he immediately agreed to the proposal. It seemed that here he will definitely get the playing practice that he needs so badly.
As a result … in two seasons Wilshire entered the field from the first minutes only six times. And that’s – considering the first four games of his debut season when he hurt his ankle again. In the 2018-19 season, he spent another 55 minutes on the field.
Last season was even worse: from the first minutes in two games against Manchester City and Brighton, and then – a complete loss of a place in the team after a couple of substitutions and a groin injury. And by the time he seemed to have recovered, a pandemic had thundered around the world. Since returning to football, Wilshire has recorded 22 minutes against Chelsea and 13 minutes against Norwich.
“Honestly, my career at West Ham was not going well,” Jack admitted in April. – I would like it to be different. I’ve missed so much. I played too little. I wanted to get things back to normal – to make me feel like a footballer again. ”
This season, following David Moyes’ convincing praise, Wilshire was ready to take part in the cup meeting. And just before that – the injury. As if someone had cursed him.
Bored fans in England like to pretend to be a math genius, counting again and again how much money Wilshire makes at West Ham “. Even by the club’s low standards, a £ 100,000 a week contract seems like a very ill-considered move for a traumatic player. Now Londoners would be happy to sell an Englishman, but who will take him?
Cynics will say that a bigger midfielder is not needed. That he, they say, gets fabulous money and does nothing. But those who know Jack personally are ready to dispel this myth.
Imagine that the peak of your career happens at a very early age, and how after year after year your life seems more hopeless. Trauma after injury, disappointment after disappointment … and time flies. And all this is not counting other problems that accompany any person. For example, thanks to the documentary video “Athlete’s Stance” we know that Jack’s son. Archie, had serious health problems.
“In 2015 or 2016 I was injured again in training, and again I had to start all over again. On top of that, my four-year-old son suddenly started having epileptic seizures. And constantly, every day for three or four months. Sometimes we had to drive to the hospital in the middle of the night. And I just forgot about football. I remember telling my wife that I probably won’t be able to return. At such moments, you understand that football is not everything. All men are like that – we don’t like to show signs of weakness and talk about something else. Almost no one knows what happened, and if only for this reason, I will always respect Arsene Wenger. He showed himself from the best side. He said: “take care of your son. Take as long as it takes. ”
” They love to say: he gets injured, he is always injured, he is glass, he will never return to shape. And no one realizes how much is happening away from the paparazzi lenses. During those four to five months, I did not sleep and rarely left the hospital. I didn’t care, honestly, because I was only thinking about him. The rest of the world has ceased to exist for me. ”
In February, after the news of another injury and its accompanying memes on the Internet, Wilshire posted his photo with the caption“ all bad things come to an end ”. And he added: “Laugh as much as you want, but do not forget, I am also a person who wants one thing: to put on boots and do what I love so much – play football. It’s hard for me, but I’ll be back. ”
In English football, very often everything happens very quickly. Talents receive multimillion-dollar contracts, star status, and sponsorships too early. In Wilshire’s case … football happened too early. More precisely, there was too much of it.
Towards the end of the 2010-11 season, Wenger warned the Football Association that his player was in the red zone. He asked not to spoil the player’s future, including him in the England youth team, which was waiting for the final part of Euro. The club and the national team squabbled for weeks, until Wilshire himself finally put in his word, refusing to go on the advice of doctors. According to him, he was getting tired more often. One could understand: behind him there were 55 matches and daily training.
It seems like he overhauled it corny in his first season. At Arsenal, only Andrei Arshavin played more than he did. Or maybe it all started with that injury in England’s last match after a long and grueling campaign.
“We tried to take care of Jack. I don’t think injuries are the result of overload. It’s all about hard tackles. Very often they hit him in the same place. It’s not his fault – and neither is the coach, says Banfield. – And that first injury, we didn’t think it was something serious. Alas, that was the first call. ”
Coyle remembers Kevin Davis flying into Wilshire on his first day to“ test him. ” A couple of minutes will pass, and Jack will return the favor. This was enough for the seasoned Boltons to accept the Moscow boy.
But the more injuries there were, the more they affected the style of play. “The way he plays, the way he spins nimbly, it all changed after the injuries, because every injury makes his fast play very difficult. He had terrible injuries. He would have become a world-class star if not for them. ”
Many in England still do not accept the fact that forever young Jack is running out of time. But sometimes life is not fair. And the further, the less the midfielder remains fans – and more and more often he is reminded of how he smoked outside the walls of a nightclub or fingered with alcohol in Las Vegas. And his outstanding performance … didn’t we come up with that at all?
Former teammate and current Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta thinks differently. “What happened to Jack is sad. When I joined them, I watched him in training every day. He was one of the best midfielders. He could have become an incredible player. ”