It was midnight at my London home a few months ago, the dinner-party Bordeaux was slipping down nicely and the conversation turned to football. Hardly surprising really as one of my guests was Frank Lampard, who was injured at the time with a groin strain (I toasted his delightful girlfriend, Christine Bleakley, during the meal for all her help in preventing him playing).
We got into our usual joshing about Chelsea and Arsenal - he accepted my view that Dennis Bergkamp was the best Premier League player he'd ever seen - and then I threw in a name that made him sit bolt upright.
Cracker Jack: Wilshere outplayed Barca's star men
'I think this boy Jack Wilshere's a good prospect,' I asserted. Frank laughed. 'Good prospect? That's the understatement of the year! He's unbelievable. The best young England player I've seen for a very, very long time.' 'Really? That good?' 'Seriously, he has everything. He's an incredible talent. I'd put him in England's starting line-up right now.'
More from Piers Morgan On Sport. Piers Morgan: Gary Neville was the most annoying player in world football. and also one of the greatest!05/02/11 Piers Morgan: Now nail down Australia's coffin, England.01/01/11 Piers Morgan: United implode, Gunners soar, and England will retain Ashes!30/10/10 Piers Morgan: Rooney's greed will spell the end of Fergie and his hairdryer23/10/10 Piers Morgan: Fabio Capello's gone in the head. now I just wish he would go16/10/10 Piers Morgan: Don't blame the owners, it's Liverpool's players' fault09/10/10 Piers Morgan: Football must put a cap on its money madness02/10/10 Piers Morgan: Never treat your fans with maximum contempt, Ronnie25/09/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Thenext day I watched Wilshere against Birmingham at the Emirates, withLampard's extraordinary words of praise still ringing loud in my ears.And I became transfixed with the sheer breathtaking audacity andquality of his play.
Foran 18-year-old, as he was at the time, he was extraordinary, almost theperfect Arsenal midfield hybrid. He displayed the left-footed passingbrain of Liam Brady, the surging forward drive of Patrick Vieira andthe tackling power of Emmanuel Petit.
Thewhole game revolved around him. Wilshere threaded a brilliant ballthrough to Marouane Chamakh to win the match in the second half. Andthen he got himself sent off in the last minute of injury-time for apassionate but reckless tackle on Nikola Zigic. It summed him upperfectly to me - wondrous skill coupled with unrelentingdetermination, steel and ferocity.
Mybiggest gripe with Arsene Wenger's academy of young guns in the lasttrophy-less six years has been their lack of strength and guts.Wilshere has both in spades. And that's why the Arsenal fans rose tosalute him that day as he trudged off down the tunnel.
Sincethen, acclaim for young Jack has grown daily and veritably explodedafter the Barcelona game two weeks ago, when it's not an exaggerationto say that he outplayed Messi, Xavi and Iniesta - winning the Man ofthe Match award to prove it.
Wilsherewas majestic that night, a towering, unstoppable force of youthfulenergy and dynamism. But the big question with teenage talent alwaysconcerns character. So many brilliant young footballers fall by thewayside to the age-old pitfalls of money, women and alcohol. So whatkind of kid is Wilshere?
Oddly,I've found my answer via Twitter. We both joined this social networkingsite a few months ago and regularly 'tweet' each other. Jack is apolite lad, always respectful both to me and everyone else who tweetshim. He's funny, too, and not afraid to be provocative. Moreimportantly, he has a big heart.
WhenKevin Pietersen got conned in a charity auction for the Brisbane floodvictims recently, I vowed to get him the ?32,000 promised by a fakebidder by contacting celebrities on Twitter. Jack was one of the firstto respond, offering ?2,000 to help make up the money.
Hethen followed up the next day with a personal message to me, giving hisagent's number for us to arrange transfer of the money. And later hechecked that we'd received it. This all showed an unusual maturity fora boy who is now just 19.
Seeing red: The Arsenal youngster was sent off in his side's 2-1 win at the Emirates earlier this season
Today,Jack Wilshere will, in Cesc Fabregas's absence, lead Arsenal's midfieldagainst Birmingham again, this time in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
It's a massive game for him but an even bigger one for Arsenal.Winning, as I've said many times before in this column, is a habit.Wenger's Arsenal used to have it and then the silverware dried up asthe Invincibles of 2004 moved on.
NowI see the manager's belief in both the team's and the fans' eyes. Thatbelief must be backed up by trophies. And I think it will be thisafternoon. We have, almost by default, found a goalkeeper who doesn'tpanic and do stupid things, a defence that looks increasingly solid, amidfield full of pace, power and dazzling technique, and a striker inRobin Van Persie who, when fit, is surely one of the most dangerous inworld football.
Follow Piers Morgan on TwitterButthe main reason I think we'll win today is because the man at thecentre of the team this afternoon is a natural-born winner. JackWilshere plays football in a way that makes the heart swell with prideand joy. He knows no fear, realises how lucky he is to be paid fordoing what he loves and has an insatiable desire to learn and improve.
I genuinely believe, from all I've seen of him this season, thatWilshere will be not just Arsenal's most important player in the nextfive years but also England's. We are watching the fast bloom of aworld-class player, one that makes you fall in love with the game allover again.
The real reason Kenny is king of the Kop I'vealways liked Kenny Dalglish, notwithstanding the fact that we bothwrite for this newspaper. He came into my office once when I was editorof the Daily Mirror and we spent a delightful couple of hours chewingthe fat about modern football. His eyes sparkled just as brightly thatday as they had when he was the most lethal predator in the Britishgame.
King of the Kop: Dalglish has sparked a revival in fortunes at Anfield
And they'restill sparkling now as he revives the quivering corpse of LiverpoolFootball Club almost single-handedly. It's not the results that havestruck me the most since he took over, so much as the resurgence ininterest from the fans. Anfield had 'House Full' signs up by 5pm on thenight of their Europa League tie this week.
Hewas called 'King Kenny' for a reason when he played in that stadium -he was the best striker Liverpool have ever had. And I predict greatthings for his new reign as manager. Nobody can resist that Dalglishsparkle, not even Liverpool's current overpaid, whining, woefullyunder-performing first-team squad.
Gerard Houllier demands that Aston Villa need to 'get ugly again'. Surely he's not plotting a sensational comeback for Gareth Southgate? No time for a siesta, Robert? RobertoMancini's lengthy moan about Manchester City's fixture list would carryslightly more credibility, and engender a modicum more sympathy, if hehadn't been given an open oil-rich chequebook to buy the world'sbiggest squad. Somebody should remind Mancini that hard work rarelykills anyone and we don't have Italian-style siestas in Britain, eitheron the field or off it - and that's something we're rather proud of.
Another day, another report of RickyPonting losing his rag and throwing his toys out of the dressing-roompram - this time chucking his box at a TV set after getting out toZimbabwe in the World Cup. I can understand Ricky's pain. Can you evenbegin to imagine what his life must be like back home in Australia,having now lost THREE Ashes series to England? Must be like waking upevery morning and finding Heather Mills McCartney lying next to you -the Groundhog Day from hell.
Explore more:People: Jack Wilshere, Kenny Dalglish, Marouane Chamakh, Piers Morgan, Patrick Vieira, Xavi, Gerard Houllier, Frank Lampard, Gareth Southgate, Christine Bleakley, Liam Brady Places: Barcelona, Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Australia, United Kingdom