Saturday 24 February 2018

Martin Keown: Jack Wilshere vital to England's hopes at Euro 2016

Jack Wilshere last turned out for England in June last year before breaking his leg in pre-season training
Jack Wilshere last turned out for England in June last year before breaking his leg in pre-season training

Martin Keown believes England need Jack Wilshere at the European Championships - but has warned the midfielder he owes it to Arsenal not to risk his long-term career by playing while unfit.

The 24-year-old has just returned to action following a leg break on the eve of the season but has yet to play a full 90 minutes for Arsene Wenger's side.

Wilshere came on for the injured Danny Welbeck in the Gunners' 2-2 draw at Manchester City on Sunday, a result which all-but secures a top-three finish for Wenger's men.

But it was just his second appearance of the campaign and, after a career blighted with ankle injuries, Keown wants all elements of risk to be evaluated before Wilshere is included in Roy Hodgson's squad.

"You have to look at it, he hasn't played too much football this season," the BBC pundit told Press Association Sport.

"If, in any way, his long-term football career is in jeopardy then he shouldn't be going.

"He owes that to Arsenal Football Club and the way they have nurtured him, looked after him and cared for him.

"We are hoping his career has set sail once more and you could look at it and say, 'There is a long-term problem and he isn't going to get too many of these occasions' so why stand in his way?

"Arsene Wenger is that type of guy who would let him go and play, he wouldn't block him at all, but if there is any sort of recurrence or any problem he has to go back to his club."

Keown reckons Wilshere will be chomping at the bit to make the cut and feels he offers something unique to Hodgson.

"It is great to see him back playing," Keown added.

"He is a wonderful talent and has something our other midfielders can only dream about, he wants to take the game to the opposition, he can see a pass and travels with the ball really well.

"We need him, but we need him fit as well and he looks well short of that at the moment but I think he is desperate to go but the right decision has got to be taken for his long-term future and I hope that has been taken into account."

Former England midfielder Danny Murphy also backed Wilshere to go to France and feels even if he is not fit at the beginning of the tournament, he can still play his part in any English success.

"His ability is unquestionable," said Murphy.

"He has a real desire to be productive, go at teams and make things happen. He is certainly the most comfortable midfielder we have at taking the ball in tight situations, he has got grace when he moves, he is dynamic and he can get a goal.

"Roy likes him in the holding role because he is so comfortable on the ball but I think he can be really creative.

"I think it is the right thing to take him because he is so special. I would take a risk with Jack because if he creeps up to fitness when the big games come, he can be the difference, the match-winner.

"He has a big-game mentality and is never in awe of who he plays against, a bit like Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere will not be fazed by a big game and I would take him purely because of that."

:: The BBC will provide extensive coverage of Euro 2016 across TV, radio and online from Friday 10th June 2016

Press Association

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