The Arsenal youngster has not played for the first team since picking up a succession of injuries that led to a 14-month absence from the game.
The England international had shown exceptional promise in his performances for Arsenal in the 2010/11 season – breaking his way in to the first team after a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers.
The midfielder hobbled off in last term’s pre-season Emirates Cup tournament against New York Red Bulls after what first appeared to be an ankle injury. Subsequent operations on his ankle and knee looked to be a significant setback to the youngster.
Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger described the injuries as “career threatening” but praised the youngster for his “mental strength” in overcoming them.
As soon as it was announced that Wilshere was back in training, the club were quick to dismiss enquiries into a specific return date – it is suspected that the club will remain cautious, given the length of his time out and the importance of his full recovery to their future plans.
Although, quiet as they are, whispers are already working their way around the North London club that a possible appearance in their next Capital One Cup fixture in less than a month, away at Reading, is the likeliest opportunity to include him.
The 20-year-old looked rusty on Monday – having yet to re-discover his immaculate first-touch along with his fitness. He could be seen panting in between the breaks in play and, after taking a strong tackle from George Thorn, he was substituted, having played just over an hour.
Whilst Arsenal lost the game 1-0, the result is likely to feature in the history books but, should Jack Wilshere become the player he is hoped to, for England as much as Arsenal, his autobiography will likely contain at least a mention of the U21 game.
Emmanuel Frimpong spoke after the game about the significance of his appearance, after such a lengthy time out:
"I’m happy for him to be back playing with the team again and to see a smile on his face. After 14 months out, he did very well and he can be pleased with his performance.” Said Frimpong, who also returned from a succession of injuries.
“When you’ve been out for so long, it’s only natural you’re going to be tired. He needs more games to get fit. I think the England and Arsenal fans should be excited to see him back again.”
Whilst Wenger will want to avoid mounting pressure on the player, the fans are waiting in anticipation. But the midfielder may want to avoid 50/50 challengers for a while, despite Theo Walcott’s claim that Jack "just wanted to get whacked on the ankle, whacked everywhere" in the hope of conquering those fears.
Wilshere also appeared to have ‘bulked-up’ which perhaps hints to his determination to prove his physical readiness for competition. He reportedly spent most of his time out injured in the gym, where he worked on his upper-body strength and core – something that will no doubt serve him well in the Premier League.
Is the Reading game the best one to introduce Wilshere, or even that be too soon?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald