Jack Wilshere certainly knows how to make life tough for himself.
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If the rigours of a 60-game season and the agonies of telling Stuart Pearce that he could not feature in this month's Euro under-21s were not enough, the prospect of a quick break in the sun before the last duties of the season against Switzerland tonight have been ruled out by preparations for an impending new arrival. The 19-year-old's partner, Lauren Neal, is due to give birth to their first child in August. So while the reappointed England captain John Terry was able to settle beside a pool in Tenerife for a week or so after Chelsea's season fizzled out, Wilshere found himself in London, contemplating what he has described as that "awkward" call to Pearce.
His decision was not the one Fabio Capello had hoped for when he cited Sergio Busquets' dual performances for Spain's senior and under-21s as evidence that junior tournaments can produce senior winners. But Terry, not for the first time in the Capello era, veered marginally off the manager's track yesterday when he supported the notion of a summer break for Wilshere on the grounds that the formidable asset he has suddenly become to the senior side should be given the only decent break he is going to get before next summer's Euros in Poland and Ukraine. "If we're looking to the Euros next year, he has to be looked after," Terry insisted.
If there was one positive thing to take from the rather scatty and unconvincing picture Capello conveyed of his England realm yesterday, it was the overwhelming sense among Wilshere's England team-mates that this teenager will be the one for next summer. He has started only three games, just one of those competitive, but Terry said yesterday that the way Wilshere eases past rivals – "glide" is the term the players always use – he already discerns something "Zola-esque".
The fearless desire for possession is one of the Gianfranco Zola qualities Terry ascribes to him and the centre-half admits that has sometimes been lacking in himself. "There'll be times in games when you'll be under pressure as a team," Terry observed. "I remember myself, at a young age, sometimes you don't want the ball. He's not like that. He wants the ball in every situation, even if he's got one or two men up him. We give him the ball, we trust him, knowing he can retain possession and he'll give it back. I don't want to build pressure on him – he is his own player – but I watched him in the Barcelona games and he was gliding through players, confident in his own half."
These are the reasons why Capello has declared Wilshere is a future England captain and why the thought of his preservation for next summer is valid, even now, one year out from the Euros and with England still battling with Montenegro for automatic qualification.
The most significant utterance from Capello yesterday was his off-the-cuff declaration that the sight of his players, refreshed and reinvigorated after a week off from the rigours of domestic football, had convinced him to give them seven days of liberty before the start of next summer's tournament, providing England qualify.
Terry's tanned complexion bore out the benefits. Chelsea, he revealed, have provided a handy exercise "package" for those players who are clearing off from Cobham for the summer. "It's a two- or three-page booklet with diagrams, examples – a few of the [lads] might have left them behind!" – but other than that it's the player, the pool and perhaps the hotel gym. "They do encourage you to have two weeks off but even that's hard," Terry revealed.
"You go away and you see another footballer running at night and you think: 'Shit, I'm going to be two weeks behind him'." (Roque Santa Cruz might not have troubled the Premier League much this season but his hour and a half Tenerife gym sessions have evidently given Terry pause for thought about his half-hours.)
The significance of this kind of break for Wilshere was vital, Terry reiterated. "We need to look after [Jack]. Hopefully he can have an injury-free season next year and be ready for the Euros."
The question is whether the Capello psyche really will render him capable of letting go next May. Terry hinted yesterday that the manager's powers of communication have improved and that he is less buttoned up. The players had been "in the loop" more. But tournament years are different and Capello's instinctive belief that Wilshere should have played in Denmark this summer suggests that when the Euros loom he may change his mind. The Italian has not entirely lived the life Wilshere lives: his own playing seasons were not as demanding, Capello admitted yesterday.
Judging by the Wilshere demeanour observed closely by Terry these last few days, Capello has done nothing to ease the midfielder's mind about his decision to take four weeks off from tonight and return for Arsenal's pre-season tour of Malaysia. "I honestly feel we need to look after him," Terry reflected. "Get with him rather than make him feel we're against him. Make him feel comfortable in his decision."
If anyone will need that break next May then you can guess it will be Wilshere, whose Arsenal GPS stats revealed that his high intensity work decreased and his body-load increased this spring, making him "heavier" and more prone to injury whilst running. That workload at the hub of Arsène Wenger's side has not peaked. If Cesc Fabregas leaves this summer, there will be another extra burden.
The nation can only hope that Capello sees the evidence before his own eyes. This time last year, England were settling into the rarefied, intense atmosphere of a training base near South Africa's Sun City. Yesterday, London provided a sun city of a different kind and Wilshere darted across the Wembley turf free and unfettered – a player without a care in the world which lies at his feet.
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