Jack Wilshere ready to fulfil potential following tough talk from Paul Scholes

Arsenal and England midfielder looks to thrive in FA Cup final and World Cup after frank discussion with his idol

It was out of admiration, not anger, that Jack Wilshere pursued Paul Scholes. The weight of any criticism is only in proportion to the respect for the critic, thus because it was Scholes it meant far more.

Scholes is Wilshere's hero, and understandably so. "For me, he was the best English midfielder of all time," Wilshere said, revealing the discussion they had had. Scholes, who ran games and scored goals for Manchester United and England, is a model for the sort of midfielder that Wilshere could become.

Wilshere is as thick-skinned as anyone with 1.23 million Twitter followers has to be, but this was a special case and he was keen to learn.

"I respect him so much and I think he can make a great coach for any young player," Wilshere explained. "I am a young player, he has been there and done it so I wanted to hear what he had to say."

It was still a surprise, though, when Scholes' wide-ranging criticisms of Arsenal, after their dispiriting 2-2 home draw with Swansea City in March, focused in on Wilshere. Scholes said Wilshere had not really progressed since he was a 17 year-old. "It was a bit strange and out of the blue. I remember watching it, he was having a go at Arsenal, and I was thinking 'Is he going to come for me?'

"If it had come from a rubbish player, I could say 'what are you talking about?', but it came from Paul Scholes, so I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I don't think it hurt [too much]. You live in a world of football where you get criticised all the time. I hurt a bit more when he did it [though]."

So Wilshere, now 22, asked Gary Neville – his England coach and former United team-mate of Scholes – for his idol's number. Neville obliged but asked Wilshere to "just go easy on him". Wilshere wanted to learn though, not argue.

"We had quite a good chat," said Wilshere, who agreed with some of Scholes' assessment. "He was right in a certain way. When I first burst on to the scene there was all this noise, and then I got injured. I have had bad luck with injuries but I can't keep saying I've been injured a lot. There comes a time when you stop being a kid and I think that's what he's referring to. You have all this potential, but you have to start putting that potential in."

Although his season has been disrupted by lingering ankle pain and then his broken foot, Wilshere insisted that he is moving in the right direction and becoming more decisive in the final third: "This season I have improved a lot, scored a few more than I have in the past and got a few more assists. You can keep the ball and you can look good, but it is those stats that matter. That is what I have to build on."

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere trains ahead of the FA Cup final (Getty) Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere trains ahead of the FA Cup final (Getty)
Wilshere had been improving until, during the Wembley friendly for England against Denmark on 5 March, he went into a tackle with Daniel Agger which he now admits was "70-30 in Agger's favour". Although he did not realise it at the time, Wilshere suffered a hairline fracture to the navicular bone in his left foot.

"When I first did it, I walked it off and I carried on for 40 minutes," Wilshere said. "After the game I had a scan straight away and it didn't show anything. The doctor couldn't see it and I had to go to someone who specialises in reading scans. Next day I woke up and had about six missed calls from the doctor and I thought 'oh no'."

Wilshere wondered if he might miss the World Cup. "When I first did it, I wasn't thinking about the FA Cup final – it's not until you are in the semi-final that you start thinking about that – it was more about the World Cup.

"I saw the specialist and he said it would take six weeks. It took a few days to get my head round it. I went away, cleared my head and then came back. I've been in that position before. I know what it takes. It takes a lot of work in the gym to keep fitness levels up, on the bike, and that gives you a better chance when you come back."

Wilshere was keen to return to playing but Arsène Wenger stayed patient while Arsenal physio Colin Lewin stayed in regular touch with his cousin Gary Lewin, his counterpart with England. After a few weeks back in training once the injury had healed, Wilshere eventually returned to competitive football, after nearly 10 weeks out, with 30 minutes from the bench at Carrow Road last weekend.

"It was nice to play on Sunday," Wilshere said. "It's always nice when you are back in the squad and you can get on the pitch. I felt alright. I know it takes a few games."

The next day Wilshere was named in Roy Hodgson's 23-man World Cup squad, as one of the many promising young players for whom France '98 is only at the very start of their football memories.

"It's a nice feeling to be part of that," said Wilshere. "You've seen other countries do it [putting the emphasis on youth] in the past. Like Germany, they look really strong. There's young players – before we talk about inexperience – there's players who have played a full season in the Premier League. They are not that inexperienced. They have learnt at the top level and proved themselves at the top level."

Phil Jones, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson are all in the England squad and in their early twenties as well. Wilshere feels very close to them. "The togetherness is important as well," Wilshere said. "We're all young. A lot of us have played together at under-21 level. We get on well. The younger players will stick together. [Steven] Gerrard's 34, we all get on with him, respect him, [but] the younger players understand each other a bit better off the pitch."

Odd guys: Arsenal stars to wear mismatching boots at Wembley

As modern football gets faster and harder, teams are looking further for a new edge. There are advances in conditioning, scouting and data analysis as top clubs resemble sub-divisions of Nasa. But what about some good old-fashioned deception?

Arsenal players try out their odd boots in training ahead of Saturday's final (Getty) Arsenal players try out their odd boots in training ahead of Saturday's final (Getty)
Six Arsenal players will wear new Puma boots on Saturday – pink on the right foot, blue on the left – presumably in the hope of confusing their opponents, who are left trying to match boot to player, in a whirl of swirling colour. Who could argue that Arsène Wenger has slipped behind the times?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment