The Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere said yesterday that he had no choice but to miss the Under-21s European Championships next month in order to preserve his fitness for next season and – providing England qualify – the Euro 2012 tournament.
Speaking for the first time about his conversations with Stuart Pearce in which he expressed a fear that he was reaching burn-out, the Arsenal midfielder said that he had made the decision to tell the Under-21s manager reluctantly. Yesterday Pearce named his squad for the Under-21s tournament, omitting Wilshere and the Liverpool striker Andy Carroll.
The 19-year-old has, however, been named by Fabio Capello in the senior England squad to play Switzerland in the Euro 2012 qualifier a week on Saturday. Wilshere said: "Missing the Under-21s tournament is not just about the Euros, it is about me looking after myself. Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling tired and my GPS results [that measure his running in training] have shown that.
"They [the results] show I am heading for an injury and that is the last thing I want, especially heading into the Euros. There are players like Steven Gerrard who have been injured while I have been playing and I want to keep my place in the team and I have to be 100 per cent to do that."
Having initially declared his intention to play in the tournament in Denmark – England's first game is 12 June against Spain – Wilshere has changed his mind over the last few weeks as he has been presented with training ground data that showed he is slowing down badly after a 59-game season.
He said: "It's been a long process which started back in February. Obviously I wanted to go and represent my country and I said that. I spoke with the manager at Arsenal [who warned him] and then I spoke with [Fabio] Capello. I saw him in a lift at an Arsenal game. [I said] over the last few weeks, I had started to get a bit tired.
"I spoke to Stuart Pearce and I told him, I wanted to go but I was a bit concerned with my fitness. I didn't want to break down next season or going towards the Euros. I am 19 and I have just got into the England team and I want to keep my place. And with the Euros coming up, it was in everyone's best interests for me to rest. I think Stuart Pearce agreed with me.
"If I had been in the squad, I would have gone [to Denmark]. I would never have pulled myself out and said 'I'm not going'. The main emotion is frustration. Obviously the fact that I was going to get injured, I didn't want to hear that. That wasn't good for me. I said I wanted to play and I meant that. I wasn't lying. I wanted to play and I still want to play. But I think it's for the best. Obviously there's a risk of injury and missing some of next season. I'm not saying I'm going to get injured, but I want to be 100 per cent sure."
Wilshere was presented with the results by Arsène Wenger and his fitness coach Tony Colbert who monitors the players' performance during training. The GPS device the Arsenal players wear in training does not just measure the distance the players run but the "body load" – which measure the stress on joints and muscles.
"It didn't really sink in at first but it just kept going down, on a downward spiral. The stats scared me a bit and made me realise as much as I'm 19 and can keep going and keep going, there's going to be a time when you're going to hit the wall. Maybe that was coming. Over the last four games, after about 60 minutes of games I felt a bit more tired than I did in January."
However, Wilshere will be travelling on Arsenal's first high-profile pre-season tour to China and Malaysia in July. "I wasn't going to go if I went away with the Under-21s because the rule is you have to have four weeks. I'll have to speak to the manager. I'm sure I'll go to that one. It's a bit different. I think it's only two games. It's a lot of travelling, but for me it's important to get a good pre-season under your belt."
Pearce said yesterday that Carroll had not been included because of injury. The Under-21s manager said that he was "disappointed" at having to leave Wilshere out but "accepted" the situation. Fabio Capello has named Bobby Zamora in the senior England squad for the Switzerland game. Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand also make their return.
England senior squad
England's squad for their Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday 4 June:
Goalkeepers: Carson (West Brom), Hart (Man City), Stockdale (Fulham).
Defenders: Baines (Everton), Cahill (Bolton), Cole (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Man Utd), Jagielka (Everton), G Johnson (Liverpool), Lescott (Man City), Terry (Chelsea), Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Barry (Man City), Carrick (Man Utd), Downing (Aston Villa), AJohnson (Man City), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Man City), Parker (West Ham), Walcott (Arsenal), Wilshere (Arsenal), A Young (Aston Villa).
Forwards: Bent (Aston Villa), Crouch (Tottenham), Defoe (Tottenham), Zamora (Fulham).