Jack Wilshere plays 60 minutes for Arsenal under-21 side


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The Independent Football

Jack Wilshere today played for the first time since July 2011 when he featured for the London club's under-21 side.

The Arsenal midfielder was named in the starting line-up for the match against West Brom.

Wilshere kicked-off the game at the Hawthorns, playing in an advanced role for the Gunners.

He lasted a total of 63 minutes, with Arsenal 1-0 behind, before being substituted for Kristoffer Olsson. A tweet from ArsenalLive reported no signs of ill-effect for Wilshere.

"So a good hour-long workout for Jack Wilshere, who did well without being quite at his best understandably."

It is the latest step in the 20-year-old's recovery process as he moves closer to a return to the Gunners' first team.

Speaking ahead of Arsenal's Premier League clash with Chelsea at the weekend, manager Arsene Wenger expressed the importance, and his delight at the return of the England midfielder.

"It's massive for him to come back," he said. "When you are out for so long, it's massive to take. It is fantastic for him."

Wilshere has not played a competitive game for 14 months after suffering a serious ankle injury that has been dogged by setbacks. Yet Wenger has said he always had confidence Wilshere would return.

"I always thought he would come back. Wilshere has had ups and downs. He was focused, especially in the last three months," said Wenger.

Wilshere began training again with the first team last month and it is expected he will return to action with the senior side at some point later this month, although Wenger continues to be protective, and insists the return of his midfielder will not be rushed.

"We have to be a bit cautious. We need to manage him well. He needs a few games in the reserves."

That also applies to a return to the England set-up, with Wenger saying the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland "will be too early for him".