Jack Wilshere is one of football's great 'what might have been' stories.
The ex-Arsenal midfielder was viewed as one of the most naturally gifted players of his generation before injuries wreaked havoc and halted his progress to the top of the game.
Wilshere, now 28, joined West Ham in the summer of 2018, and his continued struggle for fitness has limited him to just 16 appearances in almost two years at the London Stadium. But while the prevailing question with Wilshere has always been 'what if he could stay fit', it's perhaps time to look at it from another angle - what if he had never even signed for Arsenal in the first place?
According to the player himself, while featuring for Luton Town's youth ranks in 2001, he almost didn't. A chance meeting with a referee doubling as a scout, however, changed his life.
? “The ref was a scout for Arsenal!“— The Lockdown Tactics ⚽️ (@lockdowntactics) April 26, 2020
Episode 2 of The Lockdown Tactics podcast is on a *whole new level* with @JackWilshere ⚒
? Tuesday, 12:00.
⬇️ Subscribe so you’re ready! ⬇️ https://t.co/vs0DKCW7QI#WHUFC #AFC pic.twitter.com/wNPAC1Gd89
"I was playing for Luton and we were playing against Barnet and the ref was actually scouting for Arsenal," he said on Robert Snodgrass and Kris Boyd's Lockdown Tactics Podcast, in an episode which airs fully on Tuesday 28 April.
"He came up to my Dad afterwards and told him he wanted me to come along. He didn’t even say it was a trial, he just wanted to sign me for Arsenal.
"It was strange because there must have been some sort of transfer window where that sort of thing could happen but I’ll be honest with you I didn’t want to go.
"I was 15 minutes from Luton to get to London every day. My Dad with his job he would have to finish work early. My Dad didn’t put any pressure on me but at the time I didn’t know what to do.
? Safe to say @JackWilshere nailed the #AR26TOPBINS challenge! ?— The Lockdown Tactics ⚽️ (@lockdowntactics) April 26, 2020
We’re looking forward to announcing the challenge winner on next week’s podcast featuring Jack himself & @LeonMckenzie1!
Don’t forget, the winner will also get an @andrewrobertso5 signed jersey! ?✍? pic.twitter.com/XpV7S9uELn
"I remember it so clearly, I was nine and I was in the park with my mate. My Dad pulled up in his little red van and said this is your last day, you’ve got to make a decision.
"I said to my mate, 'I’m going to Arsenal' and the rest is history. Fair play to my Dad because we didn’t have much as a kid, he was a plumber.
"He used to finish work at 4, then we’d be out the door and it would take an hour to get to London from where I lived, and that was like three times a week from when I was 10."
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Source : 90min