Belfast Telegraph

England's Wilshere is fired up for physical battle against Wales

By Mark Ogden

Jack Wilshere was trying his best to be diplomatic, even laughing off the temptation to offer his true thoughts on Aaron Ramsey’s new platinum blond hairstyle, but with an England versus Wales encounter looming on the horizon, the Arsenal midfielder finally let his guard slip.

"We know that Wales don't like us," Wilshere said. "Do we like them? Not really!

"We know it is going to be a tough game and there are going to be tackles. We know a lot of the players - most of them play in the Premier League and we have all played against them at some point, so most of us know them well. It is going to be like a derby."

With events in Marseille placing England's travelling supporters under intense scrutiny ahead of Thursday's Group B clash in Lens - Battle of Britain is perhaps not the most appropriate billing for the first meeting between the two countries at a major tournament - both the Football Association and Football Association of Wales will be aware of the need to avoid incendiary comments from players in the build-up to the game.

Gareth Bale's remarks last week, before England supporters clashed with Russian fans in Marseille, when the Real Madrid winger accused English players of lacking Welsh patriotism and suggested that England can merely only talk a good game, would have done little to defuse any tensions.

But although Wilshere offered a more light-hearted view of the Welsh, it is clear that England's players are determined to bounce back from the opening game draw with Russia by imposing themselves on Chris Coleman's team.

"It is going to be a big game," Wilshere said. "I have played against them before and we won, so they will be looking for some revenge. "But it gives us a chance to show the nation we have got a lot of passion. We are here to win and we are here for business.

"If you put both teams down on paper, we would win the game, but it doesn't work like that in football.

"The Premier League is the perfect example of teams beating better teams, so we have got to prepare right and put the work in, get the recovery from Marseille right and get everyone back training, fit and ready to go on Thursday." And Bale's comments - the suggestion that Wales players care more than those in the England camp? "I've never questioned the passion of one of my team-mates," Wilshere insists. "I've never been on the pitch and thought, 'this guy isn't worried about this.'

"We all care. We all know what it means to people back home.

"Especially now, because we are a young squad - it was only a few years ago when people like Dele (Alli) and Raheem (Sterling) were 14 or 15, watching these tournaments, so we all know what it means, and we will be ready when Thursday comes."

The threat posed by Bale is clear, with the former Tottenham player thriving as Wales' talisman.

But having seen Wayne Rooney intensify competition for places in England's midfield having been deployed in a deeper role by Roy Hodgson, Wilshere insists that the Manchester United and England captain is capable of delivering the match-winning contribution that Bale has provided for Wales.

"As a midfielder, it hurts me to say, but Wayne plays the position unbelievably," Wilshere said. "I've said it before: I think he's our best player. I'm open about that."

Belfast Telegraph