Gerrard enthused by 'one-off' Wilshere
Steven Gerrard says he is excited about playing alongside Jack Wilshere, as England prepare for the resumption of their 2014 Fifa World Cup™ qualifying campaign with a friendly against Brazil on Wednesday.
The pair have only spent 13 minutes on the pitch together during the tenure of manager Roy Hodgson, largely due to an injury lay-off that kept Wilshere out of action for 17 months.
However, Wilshere is now fit and firing for Arsenal, and with Gerrard having been named England's player of the year for 2012 on Sunday, they could be handed an opportunity to establish an understanding against the Brazilians.
Wilshere was just eight years old when Gerrard made his England debut, in 2000, and already appears destined for an international career that could one day see him surpass the Liverpool midfielder's current tally of 100 caps.
"He's a great talent. From playing against him, what I've seen in training, and playing alongside him, he's a one-off," says Gerrard.
"He's a lot better than your average Premier League midfielder."
BURDEN OF EXPECTATION
Gerrard, though, says that for all the 21-year-old's undoubted ability, it would be unwise to expect too much from him, too soon.
"I think it's vital we don't put too much pressure and expectation on him," he said. "One man can't be expected to carry a whole nation on his own. He needs help from the others.
"My only advice would be to keep his feet on the ground and enjoy it."
Wilshere made his debut, aged 18, as an 82nd-minute replacement for Gerrard in a 2-1 friendly win over Hungary in August 2010.
Their collaborations at international level since have been scarce, and Hodgson admits he is keen to see Wilshere in an England shirt more often.
"I'm anxious to play down expectations, but you can't deny that he's an exceptional talent," he said.
"It might be naive, but with that level of player, it's up to the other players to profit from the work these players do and the quality of pass they give them."
HODGSON’S MIDFIELD OPTIONS
Central midfield is one area where Hodgson is blessed with several options, and for all his eagerness to pair Gerrard with Wilshere, he knows he has plenty of strength in depth in the middle of the pitch.
"I'm excited to see them, but don't forget Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick," said the former Liverpool manager.
"Tom Cleverley is an exceptional footballer as well. We can hold our heads up and compete with the best in that area of the field.
"We've just got to keep them all fit for the (Fifa World Cup) qualifiers and if we do that, I know I've got a headache coming up."
Gerrard says he welcomes the competition for places, but the captain had a warning for anyone hoping to take his berth in the team.
"It's not just Jack Wilshere who wants my shirt," said the 32-year-old.
"I'm sure Carrick and (Scott) Parker, and all the lads in the under-21s, want this shirt, and I'm prepared to fight anyone who wants it."
Hodgson also had words of advice for Wilshere's Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott, who has repeatedly voiced a desire to play as a central striker this season.
"I've spoken to Theo but I think it's important for him that he realises today that you can be a forward in a number of positions," said the England manager.
"He needs to make sure that wherever he's asked to play for Arsenal or England - and he won't be asked to play at right-back, or in goal - he shows that he can go past players and has an eye for goal.
"I know he's no way near as hung up about whether he starts on the right, the left or in the centre (as the media suggests). He just wants to be the forward that Arsenal and England count on."