Jack Wilshere has revealed how he first discovered he would be playing for Arsenal’s first team.
The midfielder joined the Gunners’ academy at the age of nine and rose through the ranks, catching the eye with several matchwinning displays, most notably in the 2009 FA Youth Cup final, where he scored a goal and provided two assists against Liverpool.
Wilshere’s performances merited him a place in Arsene Wenger’s preliminary squad for a 2008/09 pre-season training camp, and the youngster’s rapid rise did not finish there.
"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"
“We used to go to Austria after training at London Colney for two weeks,” he told Arsenal Player. “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.
“There were 18 year olds around me but I got on the trip. 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’.
“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’.
“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.”
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