James Lawton: Sorry Arsène, but you should glory in Wilshere's wish to play for Under-21s

It is encouraging that the England manager Fabio Capello is providing such strong support for Wilshere's ambition

Let's hear it for Jack Wilshere. Let's raise a cheer for a lad who at 19 so plainly sees football as his best means of making an impact on life, a belief which is wonderfully enhanced by the fact that he is the diamond of this season, a youngster head and shoulders above the rest of his generation.

No doubt wider issues in the fight for love and glory will make their presence felt soon enough.

Yes, there are some tough old, complicated places beyond the touchline – and Wilshere has already had a scrape or two out there – but how refreshing it is to hear him state so emphatically that he wants to be involved in England's European Under-21 campaign this summer.

His mentor Arsène Wenger doesn't approve, we are told. Too bad. The great Arsène has provided England with fine and noble service in developing Wilshere – just as he has Wales with the nurturing of their potentially brilliant young captain Aaron Ramsey – but the hand that has given now threatens to take away.

He thinks the Under-21 tournament will be too draining for his protégé Wilshere. Of course, Wenger's priority is Arsenal but it is interesting, and encouraging, that England manager Fabio Capello is providing such strong support for Wilshere's ambition, which was stated so unequivocally when he declared: "Look, this is international football and I want to play any international football."

Capello has chipped in with the timely reminder that this is exactly the position of Barcelona's 22-year-old virtuoso Sergio Busquets, who is also keen to join the summer action in Denmark. When Capello speaks of Wilshere there is a charge in his voice and a light in the eyes that have developed a tendency to cloud over at the mere mention of Rio Ferdinand's delicate feelings. He sees in Wilshere a young player who is impassioned and emboldened by the game. He sees in him the cut of a Franco Baresi or a Paolo Maldini, consummate players, pros to the tips of their toes.

What he sees in Liverpool's Andy Carroll is probably a somewhat less uplifting image. Carroll has clearly impressed the England coach with his raw potential, his scary power in the air and deceptive skill on the ground, but the news that he is happy to go along with Liverpool's reluctance for him to join Young England is a disappointing reaction from someone who has scarcely kicked a ball in the last few months.

It is also true that Carroll has a major task in re-building his off-field record, which, unlike Wilshere's, has rather more than fleeting evidence of youthful indiscretion. Carroll is apparently not drawn to the challenge of helping England win the kind of trophy that in recent years has been the underpinning of Spain's success in the European Championships and the World Cup.

This, though, is something for Carroll's career advisers. Wilshere is clearly not in need of anyone to tell him what his priorities should be.

"Wilshere is fantastic," says Capello. "So confident for a player of his age, it is remarkable. He is exceptional. Yes, I expect him to be captain of England one day." Certain parallels are inescapable. When Bobby Moore was a boy at West Ham he attached himself to Malcolm Allison, the guru of the dressing room. He was so eager to learn everything about the game he hung around to catch the same bus home as the man who would emerge as England's most brilliantly innovative coach.

Moore was mature beyond his years – and he was the player of his generation, a sure-fire captain of England who won the immediate respect of older players of such distinction as Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves.

All season Jack Wilshere has been drawing a similar pattern of growing assurance, and this was not the least so at the Millennium Stadium last weekend.

He has faced an immense challenge of learning. Soon after winning some passing notoriety with a red-card tackle, he scored a goal of sumptuous maturity in his first Champions League start against the Ukraine champions Shakhtar Donetsk. At the Nou Camp he was so close to delivering a withering response to some patronising comments from Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. Unfortunately, Nicklas Bendtner was unable to convert a perfectly contrived opportunity.

Now, after the disappointment of expulsion from the Champions League and the FA Cup and before the denouement of the Premier League, Wilshere again sticks his head above the parapet to say that he wants to do a little more for England.

It is something Wenger should glory in rather than dampen. Yes, we know of the problems of burn-out. We know the draining effects of too much action, too soon. But if Wilshere cannot stretch himself now, if he cannot respond to the most compelling cries of his own nature, when will he be able to do so?

When he is ensconced in his country pile with a fleet of cars in the driveway and his press agent clearing up the kiss-and-tell stories? It is not so likely.

Jack Wilshere has declared the strongest ambition to play football for his country at a time when he could be sprawled on a beach or behind the VIP rope in some night-owl joint. He has said that for him it will bring its own reward. It is a matter for pride and national celebration. Don't you think, Arsène?

Balotelli's troubles symptomatic of instability at City

Ashley Cole fires an airgun. Mario Balotelli throws a dart. No doubt there is any amount of scope for mocking laughter in these ludicrous events but in the case of young Balotelli you surely need a strong stomach to pursue the joke.

Manchester City are reported to be seeking a "full understanding" of the latest incident but they should really hurry it along. This is a kid who needs care and a degree of protection from himself that is plainly not currently being provided.

If it does not come quickly City will not only have blown £24m – which of course is not much more than loose change for the richest club in the universe – but they will invite the question that, if they cannot get such relatively small and obvious matters right, what earthly chance have they of arriving at anything like a clear view of the big picture?

There was widespread astonishment in Italy that City should commit themselves to so much money and potential trouble when they signed a young player of considerable talent but also dismaying instability.

Ever since it happened there have been plenty of reasons to understand why Jose Mourinho so quickly washed his hands of the problem. Now Roberto Mancini has to push the issue to the top of his agenda. It is, after all, shooting to pieces much of what is left of his credibility.

Vaughan is right – Broad could be the perfect one-day captain

The more you think about it, the less Michael Vaughan seems to be coming from left field when he suggests Stuart Broad as a replacement for Andrew Strauss as the one-day captain.

At 34, Strauss has put together a brilliant body of work. Not only has he won two Ashes series, with coach Andy Flower he has brilliantly repaired the damage inflicted by the hare-brained concept of Kevin Pietersen as a leader of anything other than his own fantasies.

But plainly the ordeal of an Ashes and World Cup command with time-expired troops has taken its toll on even Strauss's patience and resolve. He is needed for more Ashes plunder, and more development of the Test team, and he should now allow himself some undivided attention to such important work.

Broad's self-belief, which there is reason to believe is equipped to withstand all but the heaviest artillery fire, and all-rounder's talent make him an automatic choice for the one-day team.

The responsibility of captaincy might just be the springboard for the additional bonus of fully fledged adulthood.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
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.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'