Jack Wilshere admits he is still coming to terms with the fame his footballing ability has brought him.
The 19-year-old is coming towards the end of his breakthrough season for club and country, a campaign that has transformed him from a promising youngster into a mainstay of the Arsenal and England teams.
Wilshere has shouldered an increased load on the pitch but with that comes a more prominent profile off the pitch. The teenager reflected on how his life has changed in an interview with the Official Matchday Programme.
“It’s weird, definitely, and you have to be really careful," he said. "Obviously I made mistakes when I was young, like most people, but I’ve had to grow up quickly.
"People are always watching and sometimes it makes me laugh. It’s a story in the papers if I get a tattoo or move house – I do find that really strange. It’s part and parcel of football now, you have to deal with it and be professional.
"If I could give any advice to young players now it would be to listen to what people tell you, and live your life off the pitch how you do on it – always be professional and live your life as a footballer.”
In a team as young as Arsenal, Wilshere has benefited from the advice of those who have trodden a similar path - especially Theo Walcott.
“Yes, I’m always chatting with Theo," he said. "He has been through it all – being in the World Cup squad, then left out – and he’s never put a foot wrong off the pitch, so he’s a great example.
"I can learn from him and he’s a good friend of mine now. We’ve got to know each other well over the last couple of years.
“Before people would tell you that you have to do this and that when you are a pro,” he continued, “but until you are actually there, experiencing it, you don’t realise what it means.
"You have to eat well, prepare well, rest well – it’s a 24/7 job – it’s not just about training and playing the games. Everything away from that is so important too. If you are not ready for every game then a top class player will take advantage of it.”
This interview first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme. You can subscribe to the Matchday Programme by calling 08700 20 20 20.Copyright 2014 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 17 May 2011