The age old debate, ‘club or country- who deserves the final say?’ has been reignited again this week with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere being included in Stuart Pearce’s provisional 40 man squad for the U21s European Tournament this summer, despite Arsene Wenger warning against his inclusion fearing burnout (silly me thinking that 50 plus grand a week might now and then mean nearly a full calender year of football). Wilshere, however rightly or wrongly, has spoken out against his club manager, “I’ll never say no to England.” I’m sure you all proudly puff out your chests, let out a Three Lions’ roar and say ‘good on ya, Jack’, but surely Wilshere should consider that the team that pays his wages, Arsenal, along with Wenger, have helped mould Wilshere into the Young Player of the Year that he is, and that must warrant some appreciation of the Frenchman’s opinion.
The last Arsenal player to be caught in the club v country saga was Theo Walcott, and this occasion Wenger was supportive of his player’s inclusion, “He is 19 and if he can contribute to the Under-21 team, why not?” But on returning from the Under 21 championships, Walcott then spent much of the next season accommodating himself with the treatment room at the Emirates; perhaps there is a case of once bitten twice shy for Wenger. With all due respect to Walcott, who has really come into his own (finally) this season, he isn’t as key to Arsenal as the feisty centre midfielder and Wenger’s reluctance to allow Wilshere to play in Denmark this summer is a manager protecting his own aspirations for Arsenal, to which Wilshere is key, and let’s be honest, why shouldn’t Wenger?
Obviously Wenger has previously thrown his toys out of the pram, so naturally there is another side to the story (even if Wenger doesn’t see it), and that is this: what 19 year old lad doesn’t want to represent his country at any level? I’m not just talking about Wilshere, I’m talking about me, I still dream of the day when Capello in his broken English says to me, “put down your pen and put on your boots”, so for Wenger to deny the young lad such a glorious opportunity is, well, narcissistic.
Wilshere has just about kept the door with the sign “England Matters” ajar, but with each ‘needed’ friendly that passes it closes just a little bit more.