It must be that time of year again. The months where darkness gathers, the chill sets in, and we all gather around the fire on a wintry night and listen to one of Jack Wilshere’s highly-decorated peers tell us why he could’ve gone all the way to the top.
This time, the role of Wilshere’s hype man falls to former Gunners teammate Cesc Fabregas. He kindly went out of his way to remind us all that Wilshere was “one of the most talented players” he’d ever played with, and “one of the few brits who could have made it big time at Real Madrid or Barcelona”.
As usual, these giddy tales of Wilshere’s precocity and poise make us all smile and stare off into the near distance, vaguely recalling that performance against Barcelona in 2011. We cast our minds back to the Grealishesque dribbling, the incredible awareness, the beautiful passes, and his role in Arshavin’s winner.
The Future of English Football
With the 19-year-old’s star on the rise, this game went a long way to awarding Wilshere the eternally cursed mantle of being ‘The Future of English Football’. But in a few months, that performance will be a decade old, and, instead of becoming the fated future of English football, Wilshere will likely go down as having played his part in an anguished era for the Three Lions.
Following a couple of disastrous years “playing” for West Ham United, Wilshere is currently a free agent. Now, if you scour through the darkest depths of tabloid gossip for long enough, you’ll probably find a few humdrum reports of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers sniffing out a potential pay-per-play move for the 28-year-old.
But we all know the truth: Wilshere, consciously or unconsciously, is on his way to Besiktas. No one’s quite sure when this move will materialise; it could be hours, months, or even years, but spiritually he’s already there. Languishing on the peripheries of the big time, eyeing up a handful of substitute appearances and inhaling £100,000 a week with all the gusto of a sentient Henry Hoover that’s developed an uncontrollable thirst for detritus.
The ship has sailed
With that dismal future projected, perhaps it’s high time we asked the simple question: is Jack Wilshere’s career over?
One man that certainly doesn’t think so is Jack himself. After the termination of his contract at West Ham in October 2020, Wilshere took the standard step of announcing the decision on social media. Now, typically, this is where a player tends to thank the club, the manager, their teammates, and the fans. But no, Wilshere didn’t do any of those things, instead, he used the opportunity to go on, like a broken record, about how he could still cut the mustard at the highest level.
The thing is, we all know the Wilshere-specific cliches about how, on his day, he can still singlehandedly destroy even the mightiest of teams. But that simply isn’t the case anymore, and it’s probably time that embattled Wilshere loyalists stopped pretending that the player will ever become the talent they always prayed he would be. My friends, that ship has sailed.
Wage demands will be sky high
Wilshere isn’t even currently a footballer. He’s more of an obsessive football enthusiast who’s probably destined to spend his days down at his local telling anyone who’ll care to listen about his glory days at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield.
There’s also an air of Sisyphus about Wilshere and his comments after leaving West Ham. He fits the bill perfectly: endlessly rolling a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down whenever he nears the summit of full fitness. But in this take, the cackling hooded reaper of early retirement beckons him from across the great divide.
Sure, Wilshere’s still on the lookout for a club where he could be an “important player and be happy”, but he might as well be drifting somewhere out in space, or solemnly wandering around in a sad purgatory among other tormented drifters like Daniel Sturridge and Samir Nasri.
There’s nothing free about this agent. Wilshere’s wage demands will be sky high and, in this Covid market where every club is feeling the bite, no one’s likely to take a chance on him in the near future.
Ultimately, Wilshere’s long-drawn-out decline has a big Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront energy. He’s a player that had a wealth of potential and an arsenal of skills at his disposal. He had the world at his feet. Seriously, you don’t understand! He could’ve had class. He could’ve been a contender. He could’ve been somebody…
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Image credit: “Jack Wilshere BW” by Kieran Clarke