Sunday Mirror



JACK WILSHERE announced his retirement from profession­al football on Friday, but he was only confirming what everyone in the game has known for some considerab­le time.

But for someone who was one of the most talented teenagers the Premier League has seen, it was still a sad, poignant moment.

Make no mistake, Wilshere was some talent.

Eleven years ago, he made his full England debut in a friendly against Denmark.

Lining up against him in the Danish midfield was Christian Eriksen, six weeks Wilshere’s junior, and lining up alongside him in the English midfield was James Milner.

Last week, Milner also took to social media, tweeting: “Back with the boys for number 21. Let’s have it.”

That’s season No.21 as a profession­al.

Meanwhile, having recovered from heart failure, Eriksen is about to start a new chapter at Manchester United.

Wilshere is far from being alone in having a career cut short by injury or, more accurately, by the cumulative effect of injuries.

And let’s get it clear, none of the injuries were self-inflicted.

It was not Wilshere’s fault that Paddy McNair recklessly trod on his ankle, mangling bone and ligament in 2014.

According to the respected website transferma­rkt, from making his debut in 2008 to playing his last game in March this year, Wilshere spent threeand-a-half years sidelined through injury.

Three-and-a-half years. That is mentally as well as physically torturous.

Jack was a special player. Just ask Xavi.

“I see Wilshere as the future of English football,” Xavi once said. “With respect, he does not play the English way.”

But Wilshere (below) was also a tough nut, almost too brave, never avoiding a 50-50, never thinking about protecting himself ahead of winning the ball to try to do something productive with it.

And he had the natural gift that characteri­ses every single great player.

He played with his head up, he never had to look down because control of the ball was taken for granted, was natural.

In a way, he was a precursor to Phil Foden.

But Wilshere also made the news pages now and again – a few beers, a crafty fag, that sort of stuff.

There will be some who say Wilshere did not help himself, but I do not know anyone who believed he was anything other than ultra-profession­al.

However, Wilshere’s early retirement reminds us that, for all the money, the life of a profession­al footballer can be a tough one.

Yes, get out the world’s smallest handkerchi­ef and the world’s smallest violin for players paid millions and millions. Wilshere will surely have earned enough in his career to ensure his family’s financial security.

And, like he said in his statement on Friday, he has lived the dream.

But do not tell me – when he looks at Eriksen turn out for United next season or when he sees James Milner enjoying that 21st season with a wonderful club – that he will not feel pain.

Not the pain that eventually truncated his career, but the pain of knowing that he could have been what Xavi said he would be.

Yes, they do earn obscene money.

Yes, they are indulged beyond belief.

But sometimes it is worth rememberin­g that, even at the very top, being a profession­al footballer CAN be tough.

And Wilshere’s career ending so prematurel­y proves that.

 ?? ?? Jack will feel the pain of knowing he could have been what Xavi said – the future of English football
Jack will feel the pain of knowing he could have been what Xavi said – the future of English football

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