A renowned pragmatist, Fabio Capello is not the kind of coach likely to take a gamble on a completely untested player when he names his England squad for this summer’s World Cup. Should he feel inclined to assess his options in the friendly matches that will precede England’s trip to South Africa, however, one player unlikely to have escaped his attention this season is Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.
Currently on loan at Bolton Wanderers, where he has started seven of the last nine Premier League games, Wilshere is beginning to show glimpses of the talent that has made him perhaps the most talked-about English teenager since Wayne Rooney. The diminutive 18-year-old scored his first Premier League goal in the 2-1 victory at West Ham United last month and in Bolton’s 4-0 defeat at home to Manchester United last weekend he demonstrated a vision and a range of passing beyond most seasoned midfielders in England’s top flight.
“He surprised me,” admitted Capello back in August. “I saw him twice in the Carling Cup last year and he has improved a lot now. We have time before we have to decide if he will go to South Africa. He plays without fear, with confidence. And the other players passed the ball always to him. This is not normal to be so young and so good.”
Swift, inventive, technically impeccable and with a wonderful ease on the ball and a beguiling left foot, Wilshere appears destined to become a world-class attacking player. His age and lack of experience render him very much an outsider for a World Cup place but, with England lacking, as ever, in creative midfield guile and Joe Cole struggling for form at Chelsea, he cannot be ruled out altogether.
In Bolton’s Owen Coyle, Wilshere has a coach who clearly trusts him and with Bolton looking assured of Premier League survival, he will have free rein to showcase his extraordinary ability between now and the end of the season. A spectacular goal or a match-winning performance that gets highlighted on Match of the Day and the whole country will be talking about him. Capello might just find him impossible to ignore.