In every generation of football there is a selection of players that while they may not see the greatest level of success, are never forgotten by the fans.
These players are usually the ones that kept the fans on the edge of their seats during games, provided memorable moments and played the beautiful game in a beautiful way.
This series is dedicated to celebrating those players and giving them their flowers now, before they fade into the distance and it’s too late.
A player who many will see that fits into this category is former Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere, who as of this writing is still only 29-years-old but is clubless.
Breaking onto the scene as a 16-year-old, Wilshere shone in an Arsenal team under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage. A half-season loan to Bolton Wanderers followed where he managed to cement himself as a starter despite his young age, applying a physical touch to his finessed game.
He returned to Arsenal the following season and racked up a career-high 49 appearances across all competitions aged just 18 and 19 years old.
One of those 49 games is the one that sticks with all football fans as the game that marked his arrival as a mainstay on the world stage.
Arsenal welcomed Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side to the Emirates Stadium in the knockout rounds of the year they went on to win the UEFA Champions League. But they had to do so by beating Arsenal in the last 16 round, and Jack Wilshere was sensational.
Against Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, the 19-year-old was absolutely dominant as Arsenal were able to sneak a shock 2-1 win in the first leg.
It marked Wilshere as a young player who could perform at the very highest level and from that point onwards, the sky was the limit.
The following season marked a pattern of what would become the legacy that Wilshere will eventually leave behind however. He missed the entire campaign with a stress fracture of his ankle that took longer than expected to recover, meaning he missed Euro 2012 with England too.
The following season he returned to the fold after 17 months out, and racked up 33 appearances in all competitions before 32 appearances the following year.
Wilshere’s career never really recovered though, as persistent ankle injuries consistently kept him out of action for prolonged periods of time.
He was the scorer of one of the great Premier League goals against Norwich, where Arsenal stringed together a brilliant one-touch passing move that ended with Wilshere slotting the ball into the corner with his right foot.
He was unfortunately never the same again, but the glimpses we saw throughout the rest of his career still explain why he is held in such high regard
The finesse he had on the ball, the guile when gliding past opposition players, the ability to turn and play in tight spaces, the weight of pass he possessed; all things that were of an incredibly high level at a really young age.
He was able to take any game by the scruff of the neck and just dominate it. He was never afraid to ask for the ball, never afraid to play football the “right” way.
Despite his career being so short at the top level, it was memorable. If you were watching football regularly at the time, you can’t help but feel robbed of seeing a potential great in the making.
History may forget him one day, but the streets never will.