Sunday 11 December 2016

Wilshere reaping mental and physical rewards of Bournemouth switch

Published 08/11/2016 | 22:36

Jack Wilshere (left) is back in the England squad
Jack Wilshere (left) is back in the England squad

Jack Wilshere was in danger of falling out of love with football as injuries took their toll, but his surprise loan switch from Arsenal to Bournemouth has revitalised body and mind.

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Handed his club debut at 16 and his England bow within two years, the outrageously-talented midfielder's progress has been stunted by a string of setbacks.

Last season, like so many others, proved highly-frustrating as a broken leg kept him out for the majority of the campaign, taking his time lost to injury to an eye-watering two-and-a-half years.

Nobody was more aware of that dent in his career than the exasperated Wilshere, who took the bold decision to leave the comforts of boyhood club Arsenal to join Bournemouth on a season-long loan.

Being omitted from Sam Allardyce's first - and ultimately only - England squad was a catalyst to that move, so too the realisation that his love for the game was waning.

"It was for myself, for my head," the 24-year-old said. "I wanted to get back playing week-in, week-out, being involved in the Premier League.

"I have missed a lot of football and I missed the fight of the Premier League, being involved in big games and making a difference for a team. I wanted to feel that again and almost fall back in love with the game.

"When you are injured, and you're injured for a while, it is hard. You have to go to the training ground and go and watch everyone go out a play, go to the Emirates and watch them play. It was difficult. I felt like I needed it for myself."

Wilshere did not fall out of love with football at any point, but "nearly did" given the burden of rehabilitation instead of training and doing "the best job in the world".

"I know what it takes when you are injured to get back to the level of the Premier League," he said. "Even for me, I am just getting back to that level now. It has taken four or five months of me being back."

Such comments make former England boss Roy Hodgson's decision to take him to Euro 2016 all the more bewildering, although Wilshere is keen to move on from a period that ended so excruciatingly against Iceland.

Interim boss Gareth Southgate is also focusing on the future after giving the midfielder an England recall for the first time since the summer, with a glamour friendly against Spain following Friday's mouth-watering World Cup qualifier at home to Scotland.

"I believe in myself and my own ability ," Wilshere said. "I f I am playing games and fit, then I have got the confidence that I can make a difference in the England team."

Adding to his 34-cap haul would be further justification that he was right to leave the Emirates Stadium and plump for Bournemouth.

"I think it has kind of worked nicely from the start because we play one game a week and getting used to playing again and playing in the Premier League," Wilshere said, having made eight appearances for the Cherries so far.

"Everyone knows the intensity levels are high and you have got to give a lot at the weekend.

"There is a training schedule where I know what I am doing. Some days I can recover and they are just managing me a little bit different.

"And now that I am playing week-in, week-out, I can go back to doing what everyone else does because I am used to it now, my body is used to it now. I am in a good place and hopefully we can continue that now."

Progressing with Bournemouth and England is Wilshere's focus, meaning his future beyond the end of the campaign is on the back-burner.

The 24-year-old may not be at Arsenal, but wants Arsene Wenger's men to win the title, having watched Sunday's north London derby "like a fan".

However, that undiminished love for the Gunners does not necessarily mean his long-term future will be at the Emirates.

"It is difficult for me to say because of course I love Arsenal and I've had great times there and they have been great for me, and I can still see myself playing there," he said. "But as well, who knows what the future hold?

"I have got a year left when I go back there. At the moment I am just trying to have a season where it puts me in a good position at the end of the year, that I have improved as a player and Arsenal want me back. Then we will see where we go from there."

For now it is about helping England end a difficult year on a high, then returning to life on the south coast with Eddie Howe's men.

"It was a tough decision for me to go out on loan," Wilshere added.

"I could have stayed at Arsenal, been the player that comes on now and then off the bench, starts in the odd cup game, but I wanted more than that. I've been injured for too long and I want to prove to people (my ability).

"When it comes to next year, I think I'll have that experience that I've done it (and made tough decisions).

"I've said to people that I've made big decisions when it comes to my career previously and when the time comes, I'll have to make the decision."

Press Association

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