Jack Wilshere admits he could never have imagined himself being involved in a Championship promotion battle 10 years ago.
Midfielder Wilshere re-joined Bournemouth this week just a few weeks short of a decade since producing one of the defining displays of his career when he inspired Arsenal to a last-16 Champions League win over Barcelona in February 2011.
After dominating midfield against a Pep Guardiola side containing Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, the sky appeared to be the limit for Wilshere.
Jack Wilshere’s cool display against Barcelona marked him out as a superstar in the making
A combination of injuries and inconsistent form saw him depart Arsenal in 2018 however
Wilshere has won 34 England caps and two FA Cups, though misfortune has prevented him hitting the heights expected, with a succession of ankle problems proving particularly troublesome during his time at the Emirates.
And after leaving West Ham in the summer by mutual consent, Wilshere has returned to Bournemouth, who currently occupy the last play-off place, having had a previous loan spell at the club in 2016/17 when they were in the Premier League.
He said: ‘I haven’t played in the Championship or tried to win promotion before. If you had asked me 10 years ago if this was something I thought I’d ever be involved in, I would have said no.
‘But I’m here now, ready and focused, and keen to help Bournemouth try and win promotion.’
Wilshere, 29, spent three months out of the game after leaving the London Stadium, spending time training alone in a local park and also in Dubai.
‘If I felt like I had finished, and done everything I wanted to do in the game, I would have called it a day when I left West Ham,’ he said.
Wilshere continued to struggle staying fit at West Ham and had limited game time at the club
‘I’ve been lucky enough to earn good money throughout my career, but being out of the game for three months made me realise I want to play this game for as long as possible.
‘When you are at home and training in the park and going through lockdown, sometimes your mind can play games with you and you start thinking about different things.
‘It was tough – I am not going to lie it was tough – but now I am here and I think that inspires me even more and makes me even hungrier because I know what I have come through and now it’s down to me to keep myself here.’
Wilshere joined Bournemouth for free on Monday and played the following day against Derby
Wilshere spent two years at West Ham after leaving Arsenal hoping to revive his career.
But he made just 19 appearances, his progress once again hampered by injuries, and reached an agreement worth around £3m to terminate his contract which had a year left.
Asked whose idea it was, Wilshere said: ‘I think it was a bit of both. For both parties we reached the right decision.
The 29-year-old spent the 2016-17 season at the Vitality Stadium and played 27 league games
‘I wasn’t going to play and I didn’t want to sit there on big wages at a club like West Ham and just rot, really. I knew that I needed to get out and play some games.
‘The most important thing for a footballer is that you believe in yourself, that you’re confident in your ability, you’re confident in your desire and willingness to deliver when it comes to the big moments. And I’ve never, ever doubted myself as a player.
‘I still feel like I’ve got something to give in this game. The next four or five months are going to be in the Championship, and I’m just trying to be the best I can individually, which is going to help my team reach our goal.’