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Arsenal hero’s surprise claim: ‘Smoking won’t harm Wilshere’

Parlour defends midfielder and says occasional cigarette will not damage him

Jack Wilshere drew heavy criticism from his manager Arsene Wenger after he was caught smoking outside a London nightclub last month.

The Gunners midfielder was photographed with a cigarette in his fingers as he was out celebrating his side’s 2-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League.

Wenger reacted angrily, saying Wilshere’s behaviour was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘you don’t do what damages your health’, while the player since promised not to smoke again.

However, Wilshere’s actions were this week defended by former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour, who made the claim that the occasional cigarette will do Wilshere no harm at all.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Parlour said: “He probably didn’t even drink that night, he’s only had an odd cigarette and it won’t do him that much damage. I used to go down the pub with all the supporters when we won a game at Highbury. I loved it and it wasn’t a problem.”

To put Parlour’s surprising stance into context, he was comparing Wilshere’s smoking to the drinking culture that was once prevalent in the Arsenal dressing room, and which was quickly stamped out by Wenger as he led his side to the Double in 1998.

Parlour revealed: “I’ll always remember the first pre-season tour with Arsène Wenger. New French lads had come into the team like Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Gilles Grimandi.

“We worked our socks off and at the end of the trip Wenger said we could all go out. You know what we were like, we went straight down to the pub and the French lads went to the coffee shop.

“I’ll always remember the moment Steve Bould went up to the bar and ordered 35 pints for five of us. After we left the bar we spotted all the French lads in the coffee shop and they were sitting around smoking.

“I thought, ’How are we going to win the league this year? We’re all drunk and they’re all smoking’. We ended up winning the double that year.”

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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