With the impressive Manhattan skyline as his backdrop, Jack Wilshere is stood reflecting on his previous visit to America.
Of course, we all know what happened the last time Wilshere was in the States. Las Vegas. Pool party. Smoking. Drinking. The infamous photographs from Wilshere’s boys’ trip to Sin City tells its own story.
And speaking publicly for the first time since those unsightly snaps emerged, Wilshere is hugely repentant.
‘Of course, I regret it,’ said the Arsenal midfielder. ‘I’ve been seen doing it before, I said then I made a mistake and I made a mistake again.
‘People make mistakes. I’m young, I’ll learn from it. I realise the consequences it has and the effect on kids growing up. I have kids myself and I don’t want them growing up to think their dad smokes and it’s OK for a footballer to smoke because it’s not. It’s unacceptable and I will accept the consequences and I will move on.’
We have heard it all before, though. When caught smoking outside a London nightclub in October, just days before a Premier League clash against West Brom, Wilshere was again apologetic.
At the time, he insisted he was not a smoker and that there would be no repeat of the episode. Nine months later, Wilshere is in the same boat, making the same mistake, making the same apology.
However, there is a sincerity about the 22-year-old this time – a sense that he truly has learned his lesson. Time, of course, will prove whether his latest remorseful pleas are as empty as the ones he made last year. But he is certainly going the right way about righting the wrongs of his trip to Vegas.
Wilshere returned to pre-season training four days earlier than planned and ahead of last night’s friendly against New York Red Bulls – he has been at the forefront of the Arsenal’s promotional campaign as they look to tap into the USA’s vast earning potential.
Of course, a couple of drags on a cigarette and a few glasses of champagne are unlikely to have a huge effect on Wilshere’s fitness. But it is the fact he has put himself in that position yet again that has infuriated manager Arsene Wenger, who is a staunch anti-smoker.
‘This whole thing does motivate me to try harder in training. It motivates me to improve because a lot of people start to talk about me – people who don’t know me but want to have an opinion and it is down to me to let my feet do the talking,’ said Wilshere.
‘I came back early to show people my commitment. I don’t like to talk about to it too much, but this is a big season for me.’
Indeed. This is perhaps the biggest season of Wilshere’s fledgling career. Once hailed as the leader of Arsenal’s next generation, the England international’s career has stuttered over the past 18 months.
And with Aaron Ramsey now established as the club’s premier central midfielder, Wilshere is no longer a certain starter for Wenger.
Injuries have not helped Wilshere’s cause. But he is also honest enough to admit that he must start shifting through the gears if he is to fulfil his undoubted potential.
The £30million capture of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona will make it even harder for Wilshere to secure a regular spot in the team next season.
He insists, however, that the club’s new talent – including France right-back Mathieu Debuchy – will only serve to make the team and himself stronger.
‘I think over the past few seasons I’ve had a few injuries. I’ve got going, had to stop and get going again,’ said Wilshere. ‘This season I’m looking to have a really great pre-season and get a really good base of fitness and take that into the season.
‘The new signings will definitely give us a lift. It has been different this summer. This year we’ve been really positive and gone into the market and got a couple of really great players. We’ve got to really try to take that into the later stages of the season and be a bit more mature and maybe we can last the pace.’
A tad more maturity from Wilshere and he will certainly last the pace. – Mail On Sunday