LONDON - England midfielder Jack Wilshere said it felt "special" to be joining West Ham on a free transfer on Monday as it is the club he and his family supported.
The 26-year-old - whose lack of form towards the end of the season with Arsenal led to his being omitted from the World Cup squad - signed a three year contract with the Hammers. Wilshere - scorer of 14 goals in his 197 appearances for the Gunners and who won two FA Cup winners medals in 2014 and 2015 - said it was well known the strong emotional ties he had with West Ham.
"It feels good, it feels special," said Wilshere on the West Ham website. "Many people know that I've had a special bond with this club growing up. People will have seen the picture of me in a West Ham shirt and I've got good memories of my childhood supporting West Ham, watching them at Upton Park. It feels good and of course my family and a few of my friends are West Ham fans so everyone's buzzing."
Wilshere - whose contract ran out at the end of June - decided to look for a new club when new Gunners manager Unai Emery told him he would not be a first choice next season. Emery's predecessor Arsene Wenger had recommended that the club offer Wilshere a new contract after a series of impressive performances last season. His career has been hobbled by injuries and he was willing to take a pay cut to stay at a club he had been with for 17 years but Wenger's departure left his fate in Emery's hands.
Wilshere - who won the last of his 34 England caps in the humiliating Euro 2016 2-1 defeat to Iceland - said he did not have to think twice when he learned of West Ham's interest in securing his services adding that he is a great admirer of manager Manuel Pellegrini. "I think it was a number of things," he said. "The manager being one and the way he wants to play and where he sees me playing."
Mario Husillos, director of football at West Ham, said he and Pellegrini had made Wilshere's signing a priority once they knew he would be available. "Manuel and I identified him as a target as soon as we joined the club and we are delighted to have succeeded in securing Jack's signature above a number of other teams. On the biggest stage, he has shown that he has game-changing abilities, as well as having the creativity and intelligence to make a real difference to our squad."
Wilshere may not be the last new face brought in to a club that has struggled in recent seasons. Pellegrini, who has already signed another former Arsenal player Polish goakeeper Lukasz Fabianski and young French defender Issa Diop for a reported £12 million, is on the brink of bringing in Ukrainian international forward Andriy Yarmolenko, who will cost a club record fee of about 20m euros from German side Borussia Dortmund.