An on-form Wilshere finding his way?
Given the amount of injuries he’s suffered in his fleeting career so far, it would not be unkind to have doubts about Jack Wilshere’s chances of making the most of his undoubted ability.
But performances like the one against Slovenia yesterday, offer a tantalising glimpse of that swashbuckling talent.
One nil down at half-time to a capable but limited Slovenian side, England and Wilshere, in particular had to perform. After the bore draw against Ireland last weekend, the critics were lying in wait to crucify Roy Hodgson and his players.
Whatever was said in the dressing room at the half time interval clearly worked because England came out and took the initiative immediately. None more so than Wilshere as his first goal of the night illustrated.
Running onto a loose ball on the edge of the box, Wilshere powered a left-footed shot into the top corner past the helpless Samir Handanovic.
And if anyone thought his opening goal was special, Wilshere raised the bar again with a stunning strike to give England a 2-1 lead.
Breaking forward from his deep-lying midfield position, he ran onto a deft back-heel by Adam Lallana and as the ball sat up perfectly, struck a swerving 25-yard shot so sweetly Handanovic barely even moved.
“It’s obviously nice to get my first [senior] goals for England, they have been a long time coming,” Wilshere said post-match.
“I probably wouldn’t have had a shot for the second one if I hadn’t already scored, but after I’d scored one I had more confidence. I have said that I need to score more goals, it is something I need to add to my game, something Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes have all done for England.”
Despite already having 27 caps for England, those two goals felt like the moment Wilshere had finally arrived in an England shirt. He delivered when the stakes were high and turned the match for his country.
After the game, even the usually cautious Hodgson couldn’t fail to be excited about Wilshere can bring to the national team.
He said: “I thought Jack’s performance in the second half was top class, controlling the midfield with the sort of performance we have seen from him for a while now.
“If we can keep him fit and he can get plenty of league and international matches, he is at a young age and we would like to think we have got a very good player going forward.”
Slovenia did grab an equaliser but the home crowd’s joy was short-lived as Wayne Rooney scored the winner with four minutes to go.
In a group of mediocrity, England have now won six games in a row and have a six point lead over Switzerland. Qualification for Euro 2016 in France is virtually guaranteed.
Yesterday’s match was almost a year since England lost their opening game of the World Cup to Italy. On that day, Wilshere started the match on the bench. If England are to move forward and compete
well in the tournament next year, Wilshere must be the driving force in the midfield because at his best, there’s nobody better.