By Richard Clarke
Jack Wilshere was delighted to make his Arsenal comeback on Saturday but he has warned against expecting too much too soon from him.
Arsène Wenger left it until Saturday morning to tell the Englishman he would be making a Premier League start for the first time in 524 days. The plan worked perfectly - Wilshere bossed the midfield and Arsenal grabbed a late winner against QPR.
But, speaking afterwards, the 20-year-old confirmed there was much more to be done.
"Yeah, definitely,” Wilshere told Arsenal Player. “After 60 minutes, I could feel my legs going. I'm still a long way from full fitness. I think everyone has to understand that. They do here at Arsenal. It's a long journey and it's going to take time.
"Football can be like that,” he went on, “especially with England. You can become a better player when you're injured, you become a world-beater.
"When you come back, there's an expectation but I can deal with it. That's part and parcel of football and there's older players here who can keep my feet on the ground and help me.
"I didn't expect to be starting. When the boss told me this morning, I was just shocked. But from the moment I went out there it just felt like home. It was great.
"He just said to me, 'I'm going to play you from the start, I think you're ready and see how you feel after 60 minutes'. Well after 60 minutes I was just dead!
"I wanted to play, after 14 months any player wants to play. I've got to take it slow, 14 months out is a long time but it'll come back slowly.
"The hard work is not over yet. But we're sort of through it a bit.”
And, of course, the Arsenal side had changed a lot.
"Yes, last time I played a Premier League game, I was playing with Fabregas, Nasri and Song. They've all moved on and so it's like coming into a new team.
"But Mikel Arteta is a leader both on the pitch and off the pitch and he talked me through the game.
"And it's a dream for any midfielder to link up with Santi Cazorla. Even the small things, like the pace of his passes, he just understands you and it's good to play with.
“I can only thank the players for helping me come through slowly and helping me do what I wanted to do.
"After the week we had, we just needed the win any way we could get it. Now we can look forward to Reading and there's a big one next weekend.
"Just for now, I'm happy to be back. I'm happy to be out there and healthy again. I was just running round smiling and that feeling was amazing.”
Watch the full interview with Jack on Arsenal Player now.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source