The ex-Arsenal and West Ham midfielder reveals he is open to Spain, Italy & Germany, but will not rule out a move to MLS; and tells Sky Sports News of his sympathy for Mesut Ozil
As Zoom meeting backdrops go, Jack Wilshere’s stack of England caps is hard to beat.
The ‘golden boy’ shadow still follows the player that made the first of 34 England appearances at just 18 years old. Now, a decade on, Wilshere is among the masses working from home as he looks to find a club under the confines of the coronavirus pandemic.
His West Ham contract was terminated by mutual consent on Deadline Day, bringing an end to a two-year spell at his boyhood team that was supposed to reignite a stalling career.
The 28-year-old made just 19 appearances after leaving Arsenal in 2018.
“I was probably getting to that point, if I had stayed another year, where it would have been really tough mentally to come back from,” Wilshere tells Sky Sports
‘I just had to get out’
Wilshere has suffered a number of injuries over the past five seasons that have kept him out for extended periods. But after recovering from a hernia in time to be involved in West Ham’s post-lockdown games, he continued to be left on the sidelines and manager David Moyes made it clear he was not part of plans for the future.
“I never had a fall out with him,” says Wilshere. “I was thankful to him for being honest with me. I’ve got a lot of friends at West Ham and it was nothing personal against them. I still speak to a lot of the players, but I just had to get out. I couldn’t spend another year not playing, especially at my age.”
Wilshere has watched on as another “West Ham boy” has instead emerged as the club’s key midfielder. Declan Rice “is the future” of the team, he says, but for him the next steps are unclear.
Cutting ties brought relief. But now three weeks into a four-week personal training programme which has involved training in a local park, Wilshere admits the waiting game has been “strange”.
“I’ve been speaking to my agent every couple of days,” he says. “There’s been a few things that have come up and we’re still talking about it, but I’m not going to put a time on it because I want to make sure it’s right.”
La Liga, Serie A…MLS?
Wilshere refuses to name clubs he has been speaking to but admits he is considering “something different to the Premier League”.
“La Liga, Italy or Germany would be a nice change for me,” he says. “Not many English players have done it.
“I always watch La Liga, it was always something I thought about. I like the league, I think it’s more technical than the English game. I think it’s somewhere I could really show what I can do.
“I don’t think I’m too young for the MLS. It’s on Sky Sports, I think there’s been a big improvement in that league. If the right opportunity came up I’d be open to it.”
Essentially, Wilshere says he is “open to pretty much anything”.
“I want to play for a club where I feel like I’m an important part of it,” he says. “I just want to play games – I want to get back to playing 25-30 games a season, when you can really get your confidence back and a smile on your face.
“Just playing football, what I used to do when I was a little bit younger. I still feel like I can do it and I want to prove everyone wrong.”
Asked if there is any chance of still adding to the England caps that sit behind him, Wilshere says: “The most important thing for me is finding a club, getting a run of games and playing well. Then you put yourself in the manager’s head.”
‘I’ve been in Ozil’s position’
One club Wilshere has definitely not spoken to is Arsenal, where former team-mate Mesut Ozil has also been left in limbo after he was not included in the club’s Premier League or Europa League squads for the season.
Wilshere sympathises with Ozil. “I was in that position,” he says. “As a footballer you want to be given the opportunity to compete and fight for your place.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve played with. All I can do is comment on him as a footballer and I know what he can give, so it does make it difficult to understand.
“But I’m not in the club, I don’t know what’s happened. I’m sure a lot of teams in England and Europe – Mesut will be the first name on the team sheet. But that’s why [Mikel] Arteta’s the manager, he makes the decisions and that’s down to him.”
For Wilshere, taking his career into his own hands has brought risks but the player remains determined to stay in the game.
“I’m so desperate to show everyone what I can do, show myself,” says Wilshere, whose two youngest children have never seen him play football.
“I want to show them what their dad does for a job. More than anything I want to make my family proud. They’ve always been by my side, always stuck by me. It was a difficult decision for them to understand that I wasn’t going to play and it was best for me to leave.