Belfast Telegraph

Critics forget I'm young and still learning my trade, says Wilshere

By Simon Stone

Jack Wilshere feels it is easy to forget he is still only 21 when his performances for both Arsenal and England get picked apart.

The combative England midfielder trained with the rest of the Three Lions squad at London Colney ahead of the friendly against Chile as he continues his recovery from a minor ankle problem. Such has been Wilshere's rapid rise from raw talent to potential saviour of the nation on the road towards the 2014 World Cup, that it can often be overlooked at what the young man has already achieved in such a short space of time.

"Yes, I do think (people forget my age). Not just because I've been around for a long time, but people hear I've got two kids and it's not often you hear about a 21-year-old with two kids," said Wilshere.

"I have been in the (Arsenal) first team since I was 16, so that is five years and that is quite a long time in football terms.

"I made my debut when I was 16 and the aim was to play for England and it came pretty quickly - when I was 18.

"Then the main thing after that was to keep my place in the Arsenal team week in, week out and I did during that season. I then had a frustrating year with injury and it is tough when you are out injured, you have got to come back. People think that when you are out injured you don't do a lot of work, but you do, trust me.

"It is tough, but last season I got back into the team, got fit again and had 30-odd games which was nice, and this year I have stayed fit so far and that's the aim for the rest of season."

Wilshere, whose injury saw him miss the chance to play at Euro 2012 and also the London Olympics, has seen team-mate Aaron Ramsey grab the limelight this season with some all-action displays in scoring 11 goals as the Gunners moved clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

The England midfielder, though, sees no reason to let any doubters cloud his own vision for future success.

"People are always going to criticise you and judge your performances all the time. They are paid to do that, so you have to concentrate on your own game," he added. I play week in, week out against 31 and 32-year-olds, so I think you just have to take that."

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard has been ruled out of the match, paving the way for Frank Lampard to enjoy his golden night by leading the national side out at Wembley.

England manager Roy Hodgson confirmed that Gerrard will not be risked against the Chileans because of a hip injury.

The Liverpool skipper had an injection in the area which has caused him some discomfort over the last two weeks, and he sat out training along with Kyle Walker, who has also been ruled out.

Given that Gerrard is 33, Hodgson's decision to rest his captain is a wise one, particularly as he will want the player fit and ready to take on Germany next week.

England are hopeful that Gerrard will be fit for Tuesday night's game against their old foe, but it will be Lampard who leads Hodgson's men out this weekend.

Lampard is a minor concern for the game against Chile as he has a mild cold, but he trained yesterday and is on course to wear the armband on the night he picks up a golden cap to mark the century of appearances he brought up against Ukraine last month.

It will be a special night for the 35-year-old, whose two daughters Isla and Luna will be mascots.

For relatively new international players like Southampton striker Rickie Lambert, Lampard is an England icon.

"He has been superb," said the 31-year-old Southampton striker, who made his England debut in August. "To be involved with players like Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard, who have played over 100 caps, is an honour.

"You can see why they have got 100 caps when you train with them every day. They are top professionals and top players. It is full credit to him. He fully deserves it."

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