Arsenal’s boy wonder Jack Wilshere is ready for double England chance

Gunners’ 18-year-old midfielder has impressed so far this season, and Fabio Capello has clearly been watching

JACK Wilshere has been rewarded for his impressive start to the season with Arsenal by being called up for both the senior and Under-21 England squads.

Wilshere is set for a busy week on international duty as he will play for the Under-21s in the first leg of their European Championship 2011 play-off with Romania at Norwich City’s Carrow Road on Friday night.

But he will not head to eastern Europe for the second leg, instead joining up with Fabio Capello’s senior squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley on Tuesday.

The double call-up completes a memorable opening two months to the season for the 18-year-old who had not started a Premier League game for Arsenal before the start of the campaign.

And, as he again illustrated at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Wilshere can now hold his own against the best the top flight has to offer, and that has not gone unnoticed by Capello and his backroom staff within the England camp.

“Yes, there will be some new faces. Wilshere is one of these”, Capello said when announcing his squad on Monday.

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“I didn’t watch the Champions League game against Partizan Belgrade because I was at Chelsea, but he is a very interesting player.

“If you play all the games at one team like Arsenal, it is really important.

“He played very well the last game. I spoke with Franco Baldini who watched the game.

“He will play the first game with the Under-21s. If he is fit, he will play for the Under-21s versus Romania. After, he will be with us.”

Wilshere has started eight out of Arsenal’s 10 opening fixtures of the season, which eclipses the number of starts he made in the previous two years since his debut at the age of just 16 in 2008.

His loan spell at Bolton earlier this year, where he started 12 games and helped the Trotters avoid relegation, seems to have had the effect Arsene Wenger desired, and turned Wilshere from boy to man.

The Gunners boss still likes to protect his teenage prodigy though, substituting him both in Serbia and at Stamford Bridge last week as he attempts to lessen the workload on the young Englishman.

However with both Aaron Ramsey and skipper Cesc Fabregas sidelined by injury, Wilshere has been an obvious choice in the centre of midfield, and his performances have not disappointed.

His display in the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Spurs at White Hart Lane had the pundits purring, and after leaving Wilshere on the bench against West Bromwich Albion the following Saturday, Wenger had little choice but to recall the teenager for the trip to Belgrade last week.

He was superb again in Serbia, setting up the opening goal for Andrey Arshavin, and Wenger acknowledged it is getting harder and harder to leave Wilshere out.

“He finished a bit tired [at Chelsea] because he gave everything but he’s 18 years of age and we see what he did you can only say ‘congratulations Jack’ and keep going.”

Now Wilshere wants to do exactly that with both England sides, even if his chances of adding to his first cap won in the friendly against Hungary in August with a competitive debut against Montenegro look slim.

Despite the continued absence through injury of Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Capello is likely to persist with Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry in central midfield.

Joe Cole is also back in the squad, while Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone is another who is probably above Wilshere in the pecking order and has been patiently waiting for his chance.

However, Wilshere is very much the man of the moment, and if England are struggling to break down a dogged Montenegro side on Tuesday night, Capello has seen enough in Wilshere to know that he could add some spark if called upon.

In the longer-term, Wilshere looks set to become a fixture in the senior squad, although he may return to play for the Under-21s in next summer’s European Championship finals in Denmark, should they qualify.

Much like with Wenger at Arsenal, Capello does not want to rush Wilshere on to the biggest stage too soon.

But while the Italian coach traditionally favours more experienced players, he can see what is becoming glaringly obvious to everybody who has watched Wilshere play in the last nine months. He is the future of the England team, and a permanent place in the side for him is very much a matter of when, rather than if.