Steve Bould believes Jack Wilshere has the quality to earn a place in England’s World Cup squad but is concerned the Arsenal midfielder will have to manage injuries for the rest of his career.
Wilshere, 26, was last week in line for his first international cap since the Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland only for a small knee problem to rule him out of the friendly double-header against Holland and Italy.
He faces an uncertain end to the campaign as he looks to play himself into Gareth Southgate’s final World Cup selection and work out his contract wrangle at Arsenal.
Wilshere’s current deal expires at the climax of the current season and there have been differing messages from the player and Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger on what is causing the hold-up in signing fresh terms.
Having battled serious injuries for the majority of the last three years, Wilshere spent last season on loan at Bournemouth and was told in the summer he was free to leave the Emirates Stadium if he found a suitable move.
But Wilshere stayed put and, after excelling in Arsenal’s Europa League campaign, earned his spot in Wenger’s Premier League side over the Christmas period.
Since then he has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers, leading to an England recall which was curtailed by a knee issue.
That has put Wilshere on the back-foot in regards to landing a spot on the plane to Russia but Bould – Wenger’s assistant – has backed the player to put up a fight for a place in Southgate’s party.
“It can happen at any time, I don’t know if there is anybody to blame. It is just one of those things,” Bould said of the knee issue that kept Wilshere out of the friendlies.
“I haven’t actually spoken to him, in all honesty. But he will have been disappointed. He wants to play for his country, I’m sure.
“I don’t know whether he has (missed out on the World Cup) or not. I hope not. I think his ability, if he can show it over the next few games, he is good enough to get in there.”
Despite the recent setback, Wilshere should be fit enough to retain his starting berth for the visit of Stoke on Sunday.
Wenger could yet choose to hold him back for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final meeting with CSKA Moscow as he looks to manage Wilshere’s fitness.
“I think perhaps he will always have a little niggle here and there because of the way he is structured,” added Bould, who managed Wilshere when he starred in Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup win in 2009.
“That’s his make-up now. He’s a great player. A fit Jack Wilshere is a very good player. I think we are all hopeful longer-term he has overcome those issues.”
“I’ve known Jack since he was a real young kid. He’s a great footballer – he loves the football club and we just need him fit more often than he has been in the past.
“I think it is coming slowly but surely. It is something he might have to manage all his career I guess. He has been training fully with us over the last month – two or three months even. It gets tempered a little bit occasionally.
“That’s the nature of Jack I’m afraid. He can pick up an injury because his ankle will turn, his knee will… he’s got a sore knee.”