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'I thought I couldn't do this anymore' - Wilshere opens up on nightmare years on and off the pitch

21:19 EAT 11/06/2019
Jack Wilshere West Ham 2018-19
The West Ham man explains why his priorities have shifted over the last few years, and why he can't wait to get back to simply playing football

West Ham midfielder Jack Wilshere has opened up on three of the most difficult years of his career – and his life – so far, and vowed to work as hard as he can to win a regular starting spot next season. 

Life for the 27-year-old has been anything but plain sailing of late. Following his switch to the London Stadium less than 12 months ago after a 17-year stint on the books with Arsenal, the England international's first season in claret and blue has been beset by injury.

And while his team-mates can currently be found scattered across the world’s beaches and resorts, Wilshere is putting in the hard yards at the Hammers’ Rush Green training ground as he battles for fitness following his latest setback.

His most recent stint on the sidelines came courtesy of an ankle injury suffered in early December last year – a blow that would see Stevenage-born Wilshere add to his unwanted record of games missed last season.

In all, he was unavailable for 30 fixtures last term, but his motivation to return to regular first-team action is not just about repaying the faith shown in him by manager Manuel Pellegrini or the club’s paying public in the stands. 

A worrying illness three years ago that left his son Archie suffering mysterious daily seizures brought his career, and his priorities, into sharp focus. Everything he has done since, and each goal that he has set in his future, has been done with his wife Andriani and his children Archie, Delilah and Siena in mind. 

“It was 2016, and I picked up an injury in training,” Wilshere said, in an interview with Athlete’s Stance.

“It was tough to take, because I was making my way back to where I wanted to be. I came home and all of a sudden my four-year-old son was having seizures on the floor.

“It happened time and time again and it happened every day for three or four months. There were times when, in the middle of the night, I’d be rushing to the hospital.

“Me and my wife would sit up most nights because the seizures were mostly happening at night. We’d put him to bed but we couldn’t sleep because we didn’t know what was happening with him. 

“We would just sit up. I just sort of forget about football. I can remember saying to my wife ‘I’m not sure I can do this anymore’.

“It makes you realise that football isn’t everything. As men, we don’t like to show weakness and we don’t like to talk about things.”

One person Wilshere is quick to praise is former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger – a hugely influential figure in his life who understood the intricacies of the situation and could see through the assumption that he was a player who was ‘always injured’.

Rehab from his playing injury – understandably – became a secondary issue, and Wilshere admits his prime concern switched to his family, rather than his return to action on the pitch.

“That’s why I speak so highly of Arsene Wenger,” he said.

“He said to me ‘you deal with your son, you take out however long it takes’. That’s why this injury took so long. People say ‘he’s always injured, he’s injury prone, he’s never going to be fit’, but they don’t realise what goes on behind closed doors. 

“I didn’t want to be rehabbing. I was in and out of hospitals, I wasn’t sleeping, and I didn’t really care to be honest. 

“My main focus was my son. I sort of switched off from the outside world a little bit, and it makes you change the way you think about things and life.

“I’m a footballer, and that’s great, but family comes first always. I try to be the best dad and I try to spend as much time with them as I can. Everything I do is for them.

“Thankfully now, my son is good. Thanks to the doctors and the specialists he’s good and under control now. I want to come back for him, for my daughter Delilah and my new baby Siena, who hasn’t seen me play football yet.

“You should never give up. I want to play for as long as possible. I do genuinely love football. It’s my life, it’s my kids’ lives, we’re a football family. 

“My goal is to get back in the team and win as many games as possible. At the moment, that is all I’m focused on.”