Fabio Capello keeps England spotlight on young Arsenal player Jack Wilshere

08 August 2009 05:08
When it comes to Wilshere, this jaded sage of football is positively effusive.

English football is obsessed with its boy-saviours. Wilshere is 17 and, in a World Cup season, is the latest to be acclaimed. Michael Owen at France 1998, Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004, Theo Walcott in the build-up to Germany 2006; there is something captivating about the teen wildcard, with his GSCE results and the posters of his team-mates on his bedroom wall. It is the nation's attitude to the England team in microcosm, built around unswerving hope, often in the face of the prevailing evidence.

 Related ArticlesToure left because of boredomWilshere overlooked by EnglandWenger: Wilshere like RooneySport on televisionArsenal will build team not buy it, says Ivan GazidisStuart Pearce aims for Euro utopia as England Under-21s face Germany in finalFootball prodigies make perfect heroes. The slate is clean, the reputation untarnished by red-top revelations about inflated salaries, gambling habits or idiosyncratic interests in the more experienced practitioners of the oldest profession in the world.

The illogical but deeply-held desire is that by a freakish coincidence of genetics and environment, the next Pele, Cruyff or Maradona might just turn out to be English.

There is no question that Wilshere is special. Capello has been interested in him since his revelatory performances in pre-season last summer. A decision was made back then to fast-track him through the representative groups to see how his talent worked against more powerful, mature opponents.

Meanwhile, he has been training with Arsenal and following a program of muscular development. At the Emirates Cup last weekend he was man of the match as a substitute against Atletico Madrid and then scored twice in another man of-the-match display in the 3-0 defeat of Rangers. The development has been radical.

"He surprised me, he really did," Capello said. "I saw him last year a few times in the Carling Cup and this year he has improved a lot. He has a big personality with the ball, he plays without fear, with big confidence.

And his team-mates always pass the ball to him that's confidence. This is not normal for a player so young; it's good. We have time before we have to decide if he will go to South Africa. It depends a lot on Arsene Wenger, if he will play him. I think the next thing for him is to play with the Under-20s."

Wilshere plays for England's Under-20 team against Montenegro at the Hawthorns on Tuesday and will be in Brian Eastick's squad for the World Youth Championships in Egypt next month. That tournament has seen the emergence of Argentina's Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. The wider world is about to become acquainted with Wilshere.

You can see why Capello admires him. His instinctive movement into space and the wit of his passing have been allied to a more robust physique and it is this increase in power that, Arsene Wenger believes, allows him to beat players more easily. The Arsenal manager has even compared him to Rooney at the same age.

Wilshere is a player who seems to see the spatial and temporal on-pitch movements from an aerial view, one of the few who can crack open a calcified game with a subtle shift of weight and a sudden visionary insight. A rare and decidedly un-English beast.

While Wilshere's emergence is eagerly awaited this season, there are also great expectations of a wunderkind of England's past.

Owen's surprise move to Manchester United has revived his hopes of making the squad for South Africa next summer. Capello watched him against Valencia last week and has put him in the large, provisional squad for the Holland game on Wednesday, the first time he has been in that since Capello's first friendly.

The Italian certainly believes the move will improve Owen's England chances. However, Capello is coldly meritocratic and will not replace any member of his established group without changes in form and fitness.

"I think Sir Alex knows all the English players very well. It's a fantastic chance for Owen also to play with a really important team again, to play the Champions League again. It's very important for the player. You know the door is always open. He has to play well and score goals. No more. He's has to be better than the players I had in last season. We just choose the best players."

The competition for the places in the final squad will be intense and every squad announcement will be scrutinised for clues as to the make-up of the final 23. The success of clubs such as Tottenham and Aston Villa, who have eight and seven candidates respectively, will be examined carefully by Capello.

There are many issues for him to consider. Can Ben Foster challenge David James, now that Edwin van der Sar's injury has given him a run in the team? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's departure liberate Wayne Rooney? Can Joe Cole recover fitness and the form that made him England's most consistent performer?

Then there is the David Beckham issue. There is no doubting his commitment he is flying transatlantic for a friendly this week but Capello has reiterated his position: Beckham must be playing in a top European league if he is to be considered for South Africa. It will make for a season of fascinating sub-plots, Wilshere's development among them.


Goal: David James (Portsmouth) Defenders: John Terry (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool) Midfield: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester Utd), Theo Walcott (Arsenal) Attack: Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)


Goal: Ben Foster (Manchester Utd), Robert Green (West Ham), Paul Robinson (Blackburn) Defenders: Joleon Lescott (Everton), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Curtis Davies (Aston Villa), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Wes Brown (Manchester Utd), Wayne Bridge (Manchester City), Leighton Baines (Everton), Luke Young (Aston Villa) Midfield: David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Stewart Downing (Aston Villa), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), James Milner (Aston Villa) Attack: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Darren Bent (Sunderland), Carlton Cole (West Ham)


Goal: Joe Hart (Birmingham City), Scott Carson (West Brom) Defenders: Ledley King (Tottenham), Jonathan Woodgate (Tottenham), Micah Richards (Manchester City), David Wheater (Middlesbrough), Michael Mancienne (Chelsea), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal) Midfield: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Scott Parker (West Ham), Mark Noble (West Ham), David Bentley (Tottenham), Lee Cattermole (Wigan) Attack: Michael Owen (Manchester Utd), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Danny Sturridge (Chelsea), Danny Welbeck (Manchester Utd)


Source: Telegraph