An academy graduate leaving – in any capacity – is bound to hurt. As Arsenal fans are finding out.

However good or bad, professional or unprofessional a football club has its favourites. From Barry at your local club who helped set it up 50 years ago to Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, there is an unbreakable love between those associated with the football club and the player who has climbed the ranks. Steven Gerrard will always be remembered at Liverpool for his cup final goals and performances in the biggest of games but what makes his story better is that he was Liverpool through and through. He recentlysaid in an interview that Los Angeles – Los Bloody Angeles – was nothing like Liverpool and he missed the North Western-city.

Wilshere celebrates having scored a late winner against Swansea in the FA Cup.

Wilshere celebrates having scored a late winner against Swansea in the FA Cup.

Gary Neville’s retirement half-way through the 2010/11 season rocked Manchester United to the core and although with the rise of Rafael he was no longer first choice, it still upset a lot of Manchester United fans. If Bacary Sagna decided to retire now I doubt there’d be many City fans crying their eyes out. The departure of Jack Wilshere – albeit only on loan – hurts simply because of his standing with the club and the context in which he belongs to the club.

The England international joined Arsenal at the age of 9, he is from North of London, in Hertfordshire where lots of Arsenal fans reside and since his 9th birthday has bled for the club. From about the age of 12 – despite being three years before they start handing out scholarships – the club knew they had a talent on their hands. He was playing up to three years above his age group and was ahead of most, technically, at the Hale End base. From 12 Arsene Wenger knew who he was, watching and monitoring his development particularly closely for someone who was not even a teenager. At the age of 15 Jack was a full-time under 18’er, scoring 13 in 18 appearances in his first season for the side. He was entirely unique for any academy graduate, most that go up through the ranks do it in a far more modest way. Marcus Rashford at Manchester United, for example, was never really tipped to be the clubs’ next academy superstar, but he now is. Jack was and this has potentially hindered his development.

From the age of 15 every Arsenal fan knew who he was and this makes his loan to Bournemouth not only harder to take for the north London faithful but also the more baffling. Let alone saying it after that superb – and world famous – performance against Barcelona when he was nineteen, most would have laughed at you had you suggested Wilshere would end up on the south coast only three weeks ago. The news that Jack would be moving away shocked everyone because he had finally had a full pre-season and looked raring to go. It is not the same as the Joe Hart scenario in the sense that every person and

His second FA Cup.

His second FA Cup.

their nan’s knew the situation with the former City number 1. Arsenal’s own did not see it coming; and it seems, nor did Jack.

The snub from Sam Allardyce, in my opinion an incredibly stupid move, seemed to have given Wilshere some sort of reality check in the way of he no longer holds the preferential treatment for england that saw him get into the Euro’s squad with only a handful of minutes at the back end of last season. Many feel, as I do, that Wilshere is not going to help himself get into the England squad by going to Bournemouth any more than if he had just stayed at Arsenal. Jack is certainly good enough to start for Arsenal and many truly believe that Wenger views him this way. That puts an entirely different spin on why, someone who I have just said is viewed in some way as Arsenal’s best central-midfielder, has been loaned out for another club to use. I think it was Jack that pushed the move having seen himself as surplus to requirements this season, something that is not only really hurting myself and Arsenal fans alike but also the man himself.

Go to the Emirates on any match day and the amount of Wilshere #10 shirts you see is incredible. Dads to daughters and sons to mothers, everyone owns one and this tells you about his role not only on the field but also off it with Arsenal fans. For all the scrapes he has been involved in over the last four or so years from smoking to a nightclub scrap when he had just returned from a ten month lay off Arsenal fans have stuck by him. The attachment to the man is simply born out of the mans attachment to the football club. Both times we were crowned winners of the FA Cup Jack Wilshere led the chants at the parade, both on the following respective Sunday’s. Both times he screamed the famous ‘what do you think of Tottenham?’ song which is heard at almost every UK festival nowadays let alone football ground with fans of each club turning it into their own rendition. A pretty common chant which anyone who’s spent any sort of time on social media in the last five years will be able to sing to you; however, the ‘my old man said be a Tottenham fan’ is not a common one. I go to Arsenal most weeks I haven’t heard it sung for a while, so the fact that Jack knows the song is somewhat surprising but also telling of the man. He loves the club, if you spend every day at the same place since about the age of 15 you are going to. That’s what makes this move so painful.

From the injuries to the stupid moments to the instances of sheer brilliance Jack Wilshere has definitely sent Arsenal fans through the mill, but its a worthwhile ride when its someone who ultimately supports the club in the same heart as you do. I hope it works out for him at Bournemouth, he and Arsenal deserve it.

Youth.

Youth.

He was once Arsene’s protege, one that Wenger would nurture until he finally went upstairs into the boardroom which from there he would watch the man who has been at Arsenal since the age of 9 dominate the Emirate’s pitch for years to come. With the armband round his arm. I am not sure what happens to Wilshere from here, for he is certainly talented enough but there are certain questions about his mentality that need to be answered. The man once tipped to be the brightest English player since Paul Gascoigne has seen it all taken away and witnessed what is almost certainly a massive surprise both in the way in which Arsenal just sanctioned the move and the snub from the England squad. It has been a sad decline, but one that has seemed inevitable for some time now. The man loved by all at Arsenal has done, unintentionally, what he promised never to do: depart.

 

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