Don’t let Jack Wilshere burn out like me, says ex-Arsenal prodigee Stewart Robson
New PFA Young Player of the Year, Jack Wilshere, should look to the best player on the planet for his inspiration, according to another former Arsenal midfield prodigy.
Stewart Robson – the club’s player of the year back in 1984 when he was just 19, the same age as Wilshere – believes the youngster is the most exciting English talent since Paul Gascoigne a quarter of a century ago.
But before Robson heaps too much praise on the young Gunner, Wilshere could do worse than listen to a few words of wisdom from a man who never reached the heights so many predicted when he bossed the Arsenal midfield back in the 1980s.
“Jack is a truly magnificent talent and can go on to be an exceptional player for many years to come,” Robson, now a respected pundit, tells Ham&High Sport.
“But I want to see him maybe just step back from confrontation sometimes because he has a side to him and can antagonise opponents.
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“Jack is as exciting as Gazza was but Gazza also had that side to him. And when you start kicking people you can then become a targeted man and then you have problems you don’t need.
“I love the fact Jack gets stuck in because that is exactly what we need. He is a winner but, on occasions, he has to show more discipline.
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“Yes, he will get kicked sometimes, but he has to get up and let his feet do the talking. Jack should just take a look at Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, who does just that. Messi concentrates on using his talent to get the better of opponents – Jack can do the same.”
That said, Robson is delighted Wilshere’s talents and extraordinary first full season at the club, in which he has cemented his place in the starting line-up, has been recognised by his peers.
“Jack is the outstanding young player in this country – for me he was a clear winner,” adds Robson, now 46. He is beginning to tire now – certainly in the last couple of weeks – but that is only inevitable as he has worked so hard for the team. He has broken into the England side too and looks comfortable at that level.
“This season he has been a revelation. The fans love him and he loves the club. And he brings something different to the team because he can go past players with ease.
“A lot of our players pass and pass and pass, always in front of the opponent. But Jack can drift past players – as can Samir Nasri – and when he does that he changes the pace of a move.
“The way Jack does that has given Arsenal an added dimension in the middle, something we maybe haven’t had for a couple of seasons or so. Theo Walcott can do it with raw pace, but Jack does it with real skill and guile – he is truly fantastic to watch.”
Wilshere impressed during the Emirates Cup in the summer of 2009 but was surprisingly loaned to Bolton Wanderers. Robson says his time at the Reebok Stadium was well spent.
“Maybe Jack could have got into the Arsenal team earlier, but Arsene Wenger knows him and opted to send him to Bolton. He picked up great Premier League experience there and came back ready for the Arsenal first team – it was clearly the correct decision by the manager.”
Now his fellow professionals have confirmed his status as one of Europe’s leading young players. He was the first Arsenal player since his captain, Cesc Fabregas in 2008, to win the young player award and was also named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside teammates Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri.
The Hitchin-born starlet said: “It is my first full season and it is a massive award, especially from my fellow players. It is amazing.
“I am very proud to be the fifth recipient from Arsenal, it is good to keep this history going.
“Arsenal is a good club for bringing youngsters through and they keep proving it so I would like to thank the manager as well.”
But while he is now a fixture in Fabio Capello’s England squad, the debate over the past week is whether he should join up with the Under-21s after Stuart Pearce confirmed he wants him for the European Championships this summer.
Robson says he must not play.
“I said before, the lad is tired and rightly so. Players need recovery, especially young players like him who have had to play a lot of football,” warns Robson, capped eight times at Under-21 level.
“I remember being in a similar position when I was at West Ham. I’d just been named the club’s player of the year and at the end of a very long, hard season I was called by the Under-21s and the full England squad. I needed rest but instead I couldn’t turn them down so I went along to play for the Under-21s and then joined up with the seniors for a friendly.
“But I was suffering with injuries and after a few games I didn’t play for two years. That is because I didn’t rest properly and suffered the consequences ... Jack can’t afford to do what I did.”