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On his jack

On his jack


Why is Jack Wilshere – once one of England’s brightest talents – still without a club?


Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker. 

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today, where did it all go wrong, Jack?

Or to put it another way, why is Jack Wilshere, once one of England’s brightest talents, still without a club?


He made his Arsenal debut at just 16 years old. 

His former headteacher said the early interest in Jack Wilshere from professional clubs was “Beckham-esque”.

At the age of 19, he put on a stunning display when Arsene Wenger included him in the starting eleven in a Champions League last 16 tie against Barcelona. 

“Like when you think of the best moment of your career or the best three… what are they, those individual moments?

“Yeah, erm…I think the first one because it happened first was that game against Barcelona.

“Was Messi on the pitch?”

“Yeah…Messi played mate…”

“Mate they had Messi, Pedro, Messi, David Villa, Xavi, Iniesta.” 

Jack Wilshere with Laura Woods & Adebayo Akinfenwa, Sky Super 6 podcast

That match, in 2011, finished with a win for Arsenal, and Jack Wilshere shone even in the face of that legendary Barca midfield.

Now, just ten years on, he finds himself without a club. 

He says he struggles to explain to his children why no-one has made an offer for him.

Wilshere has been incredibly unlucky with injury throughout his career, but clubs often take a chance on an injury-prone player if they’re available for free.

So it still feels like a mystery. Why does nobody want Jack Wilshere?

Is there more to his story than meets the eye?

“You’re looking for your senior players to lead by example…you know…I always think when Wilshere’s your Captain, to me probably the most overrated player on the planet…”

Roy Keane, ITV

Arrogant. Goes down too easily. Party lifestyle. Overrated. Those were the phrases I found on an online forum where Jack Wilshere was being discussed.

We know football supporters can be pretty cruel, especially online. So is this just fans getting carried away from behind a keyboard?

“You look at Jack Wilshere, and you know, I read about him the other day and Arsene Wenger saying about the drink…he could be one of the best players in world football. I mean in world football. Not just in the Premiership, you know, he needs to just buckle down for like ten or fifteen years of his life and that is it, he can go and do what he wants after that.”

Paul Merson, talkSPORT

It’s certainly true that Wilshere has faced criticism in his career. In 2011, Pep Guardiola – then at Barcelona – said that while he liked Wilshere, there were many players in the Barca B team like him… and that he earned a place in Arsenal’s first team because there was “no pressure to win titles” there. 

Harsh? Maybe. But there’s more. 

Jack Wilshere’s former teammate Wojciech Szczęsny revealed in an interview that Wilshere got “so drunk” at his wedding. He says they were looking for him everywhere for two hours and found him asleep in some bushes. 

And there’ve been signs of trouble on the pitch, too. In 2013, Wilshere gave Manchester City supporters the middle finger and earned a two-match ban from the FA. He said the gesture was in response to abuse over his children.

That same year, there was a discussion over whether Adnan Januzaj might choose to play for England, having lived in the country for over five years. Wilshere gave an ill-judged interview saying “the only people who should play for England are English people.”

There’s the smoking too. Wilshere was criticised in 2014 for being pictured smoking a cigarette in a Las Vegas pool and in 2015, he was pictured puffing on a shisha pipe in a nightclub while he was recovering from injury. After that  incident, he said “I made a mistake and I have made a mistake again. People make mistakes.” 

“It’s two things… first of all when you are a football player, you are an example and as well you don’t do what damages your health. Er the fact that you, can damage your health at home, you can smoke at home and you can drink at home and nobody sees it, but er when you go out socially, you as well damage your reputation as an example.” 

Arsene Wenger

Gareth Southgate left Jack Wilshere out of the England squad for the World Cup that year over concerns about his fitness levels. And while some of the incidents I’ve mentioned were maybe not totally his fault, they’re the kind of things that build up and make a player look like too much trouble for a new club.

Since 2015, Wilshere has played just over five and a half thousand minutes of football. That’s the equivalent of about 63 full 90 minute matches – something like ten a season. In that time he’s scored three goals and set up a team-mate to score nine times. It’s not exactly an inspiring record.

Now he’s a completely free agent, but nobody’s snapping him up. 

“Erm…I don’t really have a preference to be honest. As I said before, it has to be the right club for the footballing reasons and whether that’s in England, Spain, in America, anywhere…across Asia, anywhere. I’m up for to trying anything and I think at this point I have be as well. I’m realistic to know that the chances of getting a big, big club in England are slim, so it might have to be somewhere else that I have to look.”

Jack Wilshere, Sky Sports

The thing is with camera phones and the way photos and videos can spread like wildfire in the blink of an eye online, clubs tend to be cautious about who they employ. One incident could cause them a lot of trouble and potentially cost them a lot of money. 

And with his injury record, it could just be that Jack Wilshere – despite his obvious talent – is simply too much of a risk for them to take. He may well have turned over a new leaf, but his reputation could have been damaged beyond repair.

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Tom Kinsella.