England manager Roy Hodgson has backed Jack Wilshere to put his injury problems behind him and became a central part of the national team’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualification campaign.
After bursting onto the scene with both Arsenal and the Three Lions in 2010, aged 18, Wilshere has endured on-going fitness problems over the past three seasons, including a stress fracture in his ankle which saw miss the entire 2011-12 campaign.
Questions about his behaviour, both on and off the pitch, were further raised this summer, when the 22-year-old was pictured smoking for a second time while on holiday after the World Cup, having been restricted to a bit-part role during the side’s disappointing tournament.
Nevertheless, the 20-times capped midfielder has bounced back to impress for the Gunners so far this season and, with both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard announcing their international retirements, Hodgson wants to see him stake a claim for a regular place in the heart of the England team.
‘He is a player who has been on the radar for a long time, and has been unlucky with injury,’ Hodgson told the Football Association's official website.
‘He broke onto the scene long before I came along, but of course, when I came along he wasn't available because of the long-term injuries.
‘We got a chance to briefly see him before he got injured again, so it's probably only been the last six months or so, leading up to the World Cup, where he's become a feature and someone who could fit the bill for the midfield.
‘It's been very encouraging for me to see him playing pain-free and without any fitness issues, and even more encouraging to see him playing well, as I think he was against Besiktas in the midfield.
‘It leads you to hope and believe he could do the same thing in an England shirt.’
With England facing Norway at Wembley on Wednesday, before travelling to Switzerland for Monday’s Euro 2016 qualifying opener, Wilshere will have a prime opportunity to prove to Hodgson that he does possess the potential to become the side’s midfield talisman going forward.
Can Wilshere become one of England's most important pieces?