Over recent years the infamous club v country row has become ever more frequent, with clubs and managers alike publicly opposing the views of their own Football Association. With the current campaign ending today you would usually expect this issue to take a back seat, but with this summer’s Under 21 Championships looming this very subject looks set to dominate our headlines for weeks to come.
Earlier this week Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger confirmed that Jack Wilshere had been handed a place in Stuart Pearce’s squad for the June’s Denmark tournament, a decision that he deemed as “the wrong one.”
With Wilshere making almost 50 appearances this season, Wenger is out to protect his most coveted young talent. The Gunners’ boss’ fear of burnout or injury dominates his argument, but should it be enough to prevent the PFA Young Player of the Year from representing his country this summer – something that the player himself has confessed he wishes to do.
At the age of 19 Wilshere has that natural hunger to play as much football as he can, however Wenger’s natural concern is the fitness of one of his prize assets. A high profile conflict of interest looks set to ensue, however if the Arsenal midfielder wants to join Pearce’s squad in Denmark then does Wenger have the right to stand in his way?
The Arsenal boss’ reluctance to allow Wilshere to represent England this summer was inevitable. His number one priority is his own squad, but if Wilshere does fly out with the rest of the U21 squad don’t expect Wenger to bury his head in the sand, there will no doubt be certain requests put forward to the FA from the Frenchman.
Wenger will demand reassurances that his gifted midfielder receives the necessary treatment from the England staff, with next season already very much on his mind. This is perfectly acceptable approach from Wenger, however he must also accept he doesn’t have the power to make Pearce’s decisions for him, so a certain amount of trust will also have to be shown.
The FA naturally though are of an opposing view. If they deem a player eligible to play then there is no reason why he shouldn’t be selected – a view backed by England fans across the country.
In order to win a major tournament it is a necessity to have your best players available for selection, and undoubtedly Wilshere fits into this category.
For Wilshere personally this summer’s tournament could be a significant chapter in his career so far. If the U21s enjoy a successful campaign he will have experienced winning in tournament football, something that no one in the current England squad has achieved.
The pressure of major championships at full international level doesn’t compare to that of the U21s, but if England aim to be a major force in the future it is vital that we give our young players the opportunity to gain experience that will benefit them, and the country, for years to come.
It’s an issue that will continue to dominate football. On this occasion it seems that country should be put before club, so don’t be surprised to see Wilshere pulling on the Three Lions shirt this summer, despite it being against his employer’s wishes.