Jack Wilshere Aims to Draw Line Under Smoking Controversy by Focusing on England

Ben BlackmoreFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2013

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Goal scorer Jack Wilshere and Per Mertesacker (L) of Arsenal applaud th etravelling fans after the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on October 6, 2013 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Jack Wilshere faced the media Tuesday—just days after he found himself the centre of a smoking controversy—and declared he wants to make up for his mistake by helping England qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Wilshere endured a testing week after he was pictured with a cigarette in his mouth following Arsenal's Champions League win over Napoli last Tuesday. 

His behaviour was criticised by Arsene Wenger, per Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, but the Arsenal boss ultimately stood by his man as Wilshere ended the week by scoring the goal that kept the Gunners on top of the Premier League.

Now Wilshere has told media—via the Sky Sports News TV channel—the matter has been closed by Wenger ahead of a critical week in England's World Cup bid:

I've learned that you've just got to focus on your football. You're a footballer at the end of the day and, when it comes to the weekend, you've got to be ready.

Players make mistakes and I made a mistake. I spoke to the boss, we sorted it out and he put me in the team on Sunday and I repaid him with a goal. Hopefully it's done now.

Wilshere was speaking ahead of England’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro on Friday and Poland next Tuesday that will decide if the Three Lions go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Courtesy of BBC Sport
Courtesy of BBC Sport

Back-to-back victories would guarantee a ticket aboard the flight to Brazil. Anything less and Roy Hodgson’s men could be facing the playoffs or worse.

Hodgson must decide whether to keep faith with the midfielder despite his subpar display in the recent draw against Ukraine, when Wilshere was hurried into losing possession on several occasions.

The England boss must break his side's current 50 percent win rate in qualifying, having won four and drawn four. Wilshere's creative instincts are capable of opening up a tight match on the wide spaces of the Wembley pitch.

The Arsenal man admits England will miss his two club colleagues, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom are sidelined by injury:

It's a blow. Both of them bring pace to the team. They're two different players but they're both really quick players. Theo scares defenders and Alex can pick the ball up and run with it. We'll miss them.

Making up for the pair's absence are the returns of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, who both missed the last rounds of qualifiers due to injury.

Wilshere cut a relaxed figure at the press conference, even smiling when the smoking incident was mentioned for a second time.

Clearly the midfielder is keen to return focus to footballing matters, knowing next summer's World Cup will be his first chance to make a major impact on the world stage.

Previously likened to Paul Gascoigne, Wilshere will be very aware that one of Gazza's most iconic moments came at a World Cup, when he famously shed tears during the semifinals.

Wilshere is carrying the responsibility of leading the new generation of England youngsters and, despite his recent off-field setback, clearly has not lost focus of what is most important as England await Montenegro on Friday.