Football - Wilshere ignites player debate

England midfielder Jack Wilshere has ignited the debate over the naturalising of players for the international team, sharing his belief that only English players should represent the Three Lions.

PA Sport
Football - Wilshere ignites player debate

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Jack Wilshere does not think a player should be called upon to play for England if they are not English

Wilshere spoke in the wake of it emerging that that Football Association had looked into the possibility of Manchester United's rising star Adnan Junuzaj qualifying for England on residency grounds.

The Belgium-born winger is available to play for the country of his birth, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Turkey, while if he remains in England for the next five years he could represent them in 2018 on residency grounds.

It is not the first time a player has been touted for England on such a basis, with Mikel Arteta and Carlo Cudicini previously mentioned, but Januzaj's age means he could well be a more realistic target.

At just 18 he would only be 23 when he was England-ready, but Wilshere does not think he or any other player should be called upon if they are not English.

"The only people who should play for England are English people," he said. "If you live in England for five years it doesn't make you English.

"If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I am not going to play for Spain.

"We have to remember what we are. We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat.

"We have great characters. You think of Spain and you think technical but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard. We have to remember that."

Wilshere's views on Januzaj at least gave him an escape from the dressing room banter over his smoking.

Pictured with a cigarette in his hand on a night out last week, Wilshere initially claimed he was holding it for someone else before finally admitting he had been smoking it.

He has since been reprimanded by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger and issued an apology, although that has failed to earn him any credit in the dressing room.

"It is non-stop," said Wilshere.

"After the game on Sunday the physio, Colin Lewin, said 'you smoked that shot'. When I am getting angry in training they say 'calm down, have a fag'.

"We move on eventually but everyone is going to make a joke of it and that's fine."

Even the Arsenal fans have had a laugh at Wilshere's expense, chanting 'he smokes when he wants' during Sunday's draw at West Brom.

"I would prefer them to change it to 'he scores when he wants'," said the midfielder.

Yet Wilshere accepts it was an error of judgement.

"I am not a smoker," he said. "I don't smoke 10 a day as some have been saying.

"It was a mistake. I am not just a footballer. I am a top athlete."

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