by Nia Griffiths

Jack Wilshere recently took us on a lovely stroll down memory lane and recalled some of his strongest memories as a youngster at Arsenal.

Speaking to Arsenal Player, the midfielder reminisces of his time as a 16-year-old at the Arsenal training camp, saying, “We used to go to Austria after training at London Colney for two weeks. There was always loads of young players training for the first couple of weeks and then if you made the Austria trip you thought, ‘Okay, this is where it really starts’. I was only 16 so I didn’t expect to make it.”

He recalls his astonishment at being picked. “There were 18 year olds around me but I got on the trip,” he admitted.

“It went from there really. We played a couple of games, I scored a couple of goals, and then we came back and I was involved in the Emirates Cup. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God I’m going to play at the Emirates in front of 60,000’.”

The midfielder continued, “I started the first game – I didn’t expect to play any part in it – and then after that it was club day and I remember the boss asking me which number I would like, 18 or 19. That’s when I knew I was going to be involved in the squad.

“The boss was clever because he put me in for some games, took me out, made me train some games and then put me out again. Then he put me in the [team in the] Carling Cup and I thought, ‘This is the real thing, we’re playing in front of 60,000 fans against proper teams, proper men, at just 16’, he added.

Wilshere went on to go out on loan to Bolton Wanderers during the 2009/10 season and played 14 times, scored a goal and assisted one too.

He was also fast-tracked to the England senior team in 2010 after playing just seven games for the under-21s, and has now made 28 appearances for his country, despite having a career fraught with injuries.

Finally, the 23-year-old paid tribute to Arsene Wenger, saying, “I owe that a lot to the boss and I’ve learnt so much since I was 16 that it’s scary. I’m only 23 now but it feels like I’ve been playing for years, and I’m still learning with every game I play.”

Wilshere and Wenger’s relationship intrigues me beyond belief.

Wilshere, with all due respect, can be a bit of a terrier at times. He has a hot head and genuinely cares about the team, so when he’s getting kicked from the halfway line to the corner flag, he can lose it a bit. Other teams know this and manipulate him – all too easily at times.

Wenger is not about this. Wenger likes a calm, zen-like, composed atmosphere.

Wilshere also attracts his fair share of media attention – something else the boss would prefer his players didn’t.

However, there’s never been even a whisper of a falling out between him and manager. There’s always been respect there, from both sides, and an understanding. When Wilshere talks about owing Wenger a lot, I feel like he actually means it, which can’t be said of many players who’ve played for our club.