Teenage Kicks: Four English midfield maestros - Wilshere, Gardner, Bostock and Shelvey - with dreams

14 May 2009 08:58
The talent pool is shrinking, the paths to Premier League teams are blocked by expensive imports and England have just crashed out of the European U17 Championships in a chastening experience for the best talents in the land. Sportsmail's MATT BARLOW was allowed exclusive access to the brightest stars of the future and found a bunch of kids having fun.but desperately serious about living the dream.

JACK WILSHERE (above)CLUB: ArsenalBORN: January 1, 1992 POSITION: Midfield ASSETS: Quick feet, explosive speed, balance PLAYS A BIT LIKE: Paul Gascoigne

GARY GARDNER CLUB: Aston VillaBORN: June 26, 1992 POSITION: Holding midfield ASSETS: Composed, reads game, two good feet PLAYS A BIT LIKE: Gareth Barry

JOHN BOSTOCK CLUB: TottenhamBORN: January 15, 1992 POSITION: Midfield ASSETS: Good left foot, vision, strength PLAYS A BIT LIKE: Joe Cole

JONJO SHELVEY CLUB: CharltonBORN: February 21, 1992 POSITION: Attacking midfield/second striker ASSETS: Energy, power, passing range PLAYS A BIT LIKE: Steven Gerrard

Around the table sit four teenagers with the world at their feet. They are positively oozing potential. Give them a couple of years and this lot might fetch £100million between them in football's transfer market.

JACK WILSHERE, JOHN BOSTOCK, JONJO SHELVEY and GARY GARDNER played for England in the Under 17 European Championship in Germany over the last fortnight and Sportsmail managed to catch up with them at Jena's Steigenberger Esplanade Hotel to talk about their talents, their heroes and their ambitions.

BOSTOCK: 'I love coming away with England. We've been chosen as the best players of our age in the country, so it's a privilege. It gives you confidence competing against the best teams in Europe, knowing you can compete against them. We've all been gifted with a talent and it's up to us how far we take it. When you see some of the players who have played in this tournament, it shows you where you can go. Rooney, Casillas, Torres, Fabregas. They're not half bad players. And Bostock (he whispers this and then laughs). It's something to work for isn't it?'

 Academy rewards! Sportsmail's guide to the top-flight teams with the most players to have come through the ranksYoung, talented and English! Peacock's Under 17 Lion cubs aim to depose Spanish kings

On a wall nearby, a flat-screen TV is showing live coverage of Germany against Turkey in the same group as England and Holland. All four teams are staying in the same hotel. Turkey take the lead.

'Turkey are strong,' nods Wilshere. Germany level almost instantly with an incredible volley. 'Wow,' yells Bostock. 'Watch this, watch this. Great ball, look at the that. What a finish.' The game consumes them for a couple of minutes.

WILSHERE: 'There's not much mingling between the four teams in the hotel. There's a lad from Arsenal who plays for Holland and I talk to him. I pass spare time on the laptop or watching DVDs. You can get a bit bored. There's computers in the rooms.'

BOSTOCK: 'They've got Pro Evolution Soccer, which I'm best at.'

Easy life? Well, it has been said. And it is very much a topic for debate since Frank Lampard claimed that young players these days get too much too soon and lose their appetite for hard work and improvement.

Two Premier League stars have previously been named player of the tournament at the Under 17 European Championship. Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, then of Everton, playing for England in 2002 and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas for Spain two years later. WILSHERE: 'I don't think that's right. Maybe at Chelsea it's like that.'

BOSTOCK: 'I don't think they clean boots at Chelsea. My agent used to be a scholar at West Ham and he said they used to paint the changing rooms. So it's changed a lot. But you've got to do those jobs. That inspires you to get to the first team, so you don't have to do them. It's good. It's humbling.

'We clean boots at Tottenham. Each youth-team player gets assigned to a first-team player, who they think you should look up to and model yourself on. I've got Luka Modric. He doesn't talk. He's quiet. I don't think he knows I clean his boots.'

SHELVEY: 'Do you clean boots at Arsenal, Jack?'

WILSHERE: (shaking his head) 'I clean my own boots. We have jobs, like sweeping out the boot rooms and that after training.'

GARDNER: 'We have to do the bibs and the balls.'

BOSTOCK: 'It's a long day. I get in at eight o'clock and I get home at half five. Unlike Jonjo.'

SHELVEY (who has been in Charlton's first team and enjoying the senior side's training schedule): 'I get in at 10, have a bit of breakfast, go to training and finish about half one. But then I have to wait because one of the scholars gives me a lift home.'

BOSTOCK: 'It's his chauffeur.'

SHELVEY: 'No, he's one of my mates and he lives right next to me. I sort him out with a bit of money. On Mondays, I'll sometimes stay out and do the afternoon session with the scholars or go in the gym and work on my power (he flexes his biceps and grins) but there hasn't really been much improvement there yet.'

GARDNER: 'We have to be in at quarter to nine and finish about half three, but on Tuesday afternoon there's college and we finish about half four.'

SHELVEY: 'When I was younger, if I had a bad game, I used to think I wanted to be a golfer. We're lucky about what we do. You always think what you might be doing if you weren't a footballer. I'd probably be working in McDonald's.'

WILSHERE: 'I'd be a plumber like my dad.'

BOSTOCK: 'I'd probably have gone into athletics, I'm an athlete, me, mate. Or tennis.'

Fab Four: From left to right, Gary Gardner, John Bostock, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Wilshere relax on England duty.

WILSHERE: 'Your motivation comes from the first-team players. You look at them and think that's where you want to be. Once you start getting a taste of the first team, you want more.'

BOSTOCK: 'I find it hard to get comfortable because as soon as you achieve one thing, you're looking for the next one. You play for the U17s and then you want to play for the U19s, then the U21s. Players I've played with like Jack Rodwell and Nathan Delfouneso have moved on to the U19s. Look at Wayne Rooney and you see what's achievable. I suppose the height is like Cristiano Ronaldo, he gets voted the best player in the world. How does he feel after that?'

WILSHERE: 'Not this year he isn't. He's not the best this year.'

BOSTOCK: 'Last year. It doesn't matter what year it was. He was officially the best player in the world.'

WILSHERE: 'Not this year.'

So who is?

WILSHERE: 'Messi.'

GARDNER: 'Gerrard for me. He's got everything. Best midfielder in the world I reckon. Definitely.'

Players who have made the jump fromplaying for England in the Under 17 European Championship to the full senior squad include Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, DavidWheater, Steven Taylor and Michael Mancienne.SHELVEY: 'Yeah, Gerrard.'

WILSHERE: 'What about Messi?'

GARDNER: 'Nah, Gerrard, all-round player. He's a leader as well.'

SHELVEY (pointing at Bostock): 'It's aliens. Ask him when it comes to heroes. Ask him about aliens.'

Bostock was once quoted in a magazine interview saying his heroes were Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho and that he and his friends called them 'aliens' because they were from another planet. He is still trying to live it down.

BOSTOCK: 'I was about 15. It looks terrible now, the fact that I said that. I love football, so I've always looked up to Ronaldinho, I just love the way he plays football.'

Gardner has a role model within the family. Older brother Craig is at Aston Villa and an England U21 international.

GARDNER: 'I look up to Craig a lot. Growing up, I've seen everything he does and I know what you need to be a Premier League player. That's helped me a lot. He always came to watch me and knowing your brother is there watching you makes you play better. I still live at home. Craig's never far away. He comes round almost every day. I've got five brothers all together.'

SHELVEY: 'How big's your house?'

GARDNER: 'I'm the youngest. The oldest is 30, I think. Two of us play football. One's a gardener (general amusement), one's a florist, a builder, a plasterer. They all played football. One plays for Solihull Moors in the Blue Square North. I don't know where the talent comes from. I think it's my mum. She played for Villa girls.'

WILSHERE: 'When I went to train with the first team, they just said, "watch Fabregas".'

BOSTOCK: 'Modric is unbelievable. He sees things other people can't see. He thinks about two seconds ahead of everyone else. You can't get near him in training.'

 Academy rewards! Sportsmail's guide to the top-flight teams with the most players to have come through the ranksYoung, talented and English! Peacock's Under 17 Lion cubs aim to depose Spanish kings

SHELVEY: 'If I want advice, I ask Matty Holland. He's scored in the World Cup finals and he's a perfect role model. I can't drive yet and when we go to away games at night, he'll take me home after. He's quality. I've got my test in June. We don't all drive A3s do we?' This is aimed at Wilshere.

GARDNER: 'I've never driven a car.'

BOSTOCK: 'I've done 10 hours of lessons but I'm already a good driver. I'm doing reversing round a corner now.'

WILSHERE: 'It took me about nine hours to pass my test. I was a natural.'

Driving tests? Heroes? It's a reminder that these are just normal teenagers. Well, almost. So, what do they talk about?

SHELVEY: 'Chicks.'

WILSHERE: 'Us three talk about girls. I don't know what he talks about' (he nods at Bostock).

SHELVEY: 'He talks about Ronaldinho. He talks about people from Jupiter or Saturn.'

WILSHERE: 'After the game, we talk about the game, probably for a day.'

SHELVEY: 'You talk about what you laugh about.'

BOSTOCK: 'We talk about everything because we spend so much time with each other.'

GARDNER: 'We tell each other our deepest, darkest secrets.'

Young hopefuls: The England U17 team that lined up against Germany this week.

The England squad meet for dinner and then plan to watch a big match on television. They are expected to be in their rooms for 10.30pm.

BOSTOCK: 'It makes you more disciplined. You see your mates getting drunk. It's better that you're focusing on your dream.'

GARDNER: 'Your mates say, "come out, we're going clubbing". And you have to say no. It's hard but if you want to get to the top, it's what you've got to do.'

BOSTOCK: 'This is a great life to lead. But the difference between winning and losing can be very small. So drinking and all that is not going to help.'

SHELVEY: 'If you go out the night before a game and cost your team a goal, you let everyone down. It's work, it's your career. It's a bonus that there's good money in it. You've got to secure your future after football.'

BOSTOCK: 'There's your family as well. They've sacrificed so many things for your career that it's nice to reward them with some money.'

GARDNER: 'They spend hours driving you everywhere. And all the money they must spend on petrol.'

Germany go on to beat Turkey 3-1 and progress to the last four alongside Holland. England go out - and miss out on a World Cup place - after losing to Germany and Turkey and drawing against the Dutch. The players are obviously disappointed.

BOSTOCK: 'Coming here, I really thought we had the most talented group. We didn't fear anyone.'

 Academy rewards! Sportsmail's guide to the top-flight teams with the most players to have come through the ranksYoung, talented and English! Peacock's Under 17 Lion cubs aim to depose Spanish kings


Source: Daily_Mail

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 08:57