The amazing thing about being out so long is you lot have turned me into Lionel Messi!
16:11 GMT, 11 November 2012
Jack is back. All hail the saviour of English football. At least that's how it feels. That's how absence works.
England stumble, drop points but Jack's on his way. Arsenal end another season without a trophy, sell Robin van Persie but there’s always Jack.
Arsene Wenger, Roy Hodgson, anyone charged with projecting hope for our national game has been craving the same thing.
Jack's back: English football, and Arsenal fans especially, are delighted Wilshere's fit again
That thing: Jack Wilshere dominating midfield, a pass, a tackle, an explosion of pace, much as he did before 17 months without competitive action due to three different injuries.
'You're like Messi when you're injured, aren't you' said Wilshere. 'That's fine. That's part and parcel of football. That’s what you lot do.
'It doesn’t fill me with fear. It’s nice to read when you’re out. But when you start to come back, especially in your first game, you think am I ever going to…
‘If you’d watched the West Brom Under 21 game, people were saying, “You did well” and I was thinking, “No I didn’t”. But I can feel myself getting better and better every game.'
Jack stepped back into the Arsenal team on October 27. There was no Gael Clichy, no Cesc Fabregas, no Samir Nasri and no Van Persie. He had stood by and watched them leave during his time injured.
'I wasn’t playing and I was more like a fan, so I know what the fans were feeling,' said Wilshere.
There appears to be no burning desire to follow them. If anything his bond with the club has strengthened during his time out, but in the modern world can a footballer promise he will never leave
'I think you can if you're happy at a club,' Wilshere replied. 'I've been at this club 10 years and to come through the academy at Hale End and break into the first team is a great story. It’s a dream.
'To have my family 20 minutes from the training ground and an hour from the stadium is perfect for me.
'Cesc wanted to go home. Home for me is Arsenal. Cesc wanted to go back to his family and friends. My family and friends are 20 minutes away. It’s perfect.
'Also to have the fans, because when I walk around my town there are a lot of Arsenal fans. It’s great. The fans still remember you in the way that you’d want. You want to feel loved and I feel loved at this club.'
Old and the new: Wilshere returned to a team with some familiar faces but several new ones, too
Although Wilshere made his debut four years ago at the age of 16, he is aware that his experience amounts to little more than one season in Wenger’s team.
'I think I’ve played 39 games in the Premier League, which is nothing really when you look at players like Tony Adams and how many appearances they made,’ he said. 'That's something I want to do.'
Adams played 669 times for the Gunners and his statue at the Emirates is in a pose he struck after a goal which helped clinch the title in 1998.
More than eight years have passed since Arsenal’s last Premier League crown, seven since the FA Cup, their last trophy, but the targets do not change.
'Our ambition every year is to challenge for the Premier League title. If we didn’t think we could do that, we would be under-achieving.
'People might say we’re a long way off — and the table doesn’t lie, we are a few points behind — but we know what we have to do. We know we can’t afford to drop points.
'To see your top players go, like Cesc and Nasri, is hard, but if you lose a player like Cesc and you get a player like Santi Cazorla, they’re similar. Cazorla is a top player and the same with Mikel Arteta. If he was English he’d be the first on the team-sheet.
'It’s hard to see players go but when you see others coming in like Lukas Podolski with over 100 caps for Germany, they’re still top players. It’s nice to come back into a team with top players.’
Rough and tumble: Since his return for an hour against QPR (below), Wilshere has taken a few hits
Jack was back in hospital this week at London’s Great Ormond Street to open the Arsenal lung function unit funded by more than 800,000 raised by Arsenal during the 2009-10 season.
Since his last visit, a cramped, cluttered and out-of-date unit, where most testing was performed in the corridors, has been transformed into spacious new labs with gleaming hi-tech equipment.
Wilshere meets Harry McIntyre, an 11-year-old young Gooner with cystic fibrosis and swells with pride at the fund-raising efforts of his club.
The players donate a day's wages each year to good causes and through the Arsenal Foundation last year Wilshere and Carl Jenkinson carried donation buckets around the Emirates – and into the dressing rooms – competing to collect the most.
'Yeah, I won,' nods Wilshere. He is a winner, blessed with fierce determination and familiar with the emotions of those who put their faith in medical science.
At the age of 19, his career hung in the balance as he prepared for a delicate operation to pin a stress fracture in his right ankle.
'Thank God the surgery went well. They put two pins through the talus. They didn’t want to do that at first because it’s such a small bone it could have shattered or anything. The surgeon (James Calder) was great, I owe him everything really, him and the physios and fitness team at Arsenal.'
The problem emerged near the end of his breakthrough season and he hobbled home after an England game in June 2011.
'I had a kick on my left ankle but I had this pain in my right ankle. The physio asked if I was all right. I said it was a kick and had four weeks off and that I’d be OK.'
Clubbing together: Wilshere joined Arsene Wenger to officially open the Lung Function Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a facility built with the help of money raised by the club as its charity of the season
Wilshere reported for pre-season training and played the first half against Boca Juniors in the Emirates Cup at the end of July but did not feel quite right when he started against New York Red Bulls the following day.
He lasted only seven minutes. It was confirmed as a stress fracture and he spent two months in a boot before another scan showed the bone was not mending.
'It is hard, especially when you get setbacks,' Wilshere admitted. '.
Among those he consulted was Alan Shearer, who suffered badly from tendinitis. Shearer told him to be patient and get it right.
'I was in the gym all summer,' said Wilshere. 'I had one week off, when I went on holiday but I was in six days a week from May through to June and then into pre-season.
'My core and body-strength have probably improved more than 100 per cent and I’m still doing all that work. It’s something I’ve got to keep on top of.
England expects: Wilshere's been recalled to the international set-up, 17 months after his last game
'The physios know what they’re talking about. They got a lot of stick, saying I should be back, but if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be back now.'
Jack knew he was back when Reading’s Danny Guthrie crunched into him in an Under 21s game before the long-awaited first-team comeback in October against Queens Park Rangers.
'The first hit is always important,' said Wilshere. 'It's more for your head than anything else.'
He survived the impact and another hefty blow against Schalke. The new, stronger body is looking good and the mind has matured since his injury.
Son Archie, who was one in September, has played a major role here, helping Wilshere to cope with some of the darker corners of his 17 months out and keep him on the road to recovery.
'The toughest thing is mentally to stay on track,' Wilshere said. 'When you’re off for so long and not playing football you can go off the rails in all sorts of ways.
'To have him around was a massive bonus. If he wasn’t there, I don’t know what I’d have done, really. It wasn’t like I was a party animal. I wasn’t out all the time.
'But when you’ve a son, you don’t want to leave him, so that does help. I didn’t expect to be around for the first year but I was at home for the first couple of months and it worked out quite well in that respect.
No fear: Wilshere more than proved himself against the planet's finest before his injury
'I'd do a few nights where I’d stay up with him, I’d be playing FIFA, but when I got back to training and playing it was a bit different.'
Jack is back in the England squad, a call-up which did not go down terribly well with Wenger, who envisaged an extended break for the 20-year-old banned from the game against Fulham after a red card at Manchester United.
'I'm grateful to Roy for picking me,’ said Wilshere. ‘It’s a massive confidence boost to know you’re part of his plans. It seems everyone is building up my return, saying I’m going to be this and I’m going to be that, but if you look around the squad, there’s young Raheem Sterling coming through and they’re all ball players.
'People saying “Jack this, Jack that, he’s the only one with technique”. I think if you look a lot deeper you find players who can compete with the best in the world. It bodes well for the future.
'Even the centre backs coming through — Chris Smalling is good on the ball, Phil Jones can play in midfield. I missed so much football that I just want to play every game now, but I’ve got to be sensible.
'Now is like a pre-season for me and you don’t want to be playing too many games. It’s normally where you get all the rust out and for me there’s no hiding place.
'I've played at the Emirates in front of 60,000, then at Old Trafford, then at Schalke. These are big stages but I’m relishing it. I want to get back to where I was, playing week-in, week-out.
'There’s nothing in my body telling me I can’t play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. It’s just a matter of getting the games and being able to cope.'
Jack is back and he’s making up for lost time. Look out Lionel Messi.
The event marked ‘one month to go’ until Arsenal’s dedicated charity matchday for The Arsenal Foundation against West Bromwich Albion on December 8, when Jack will join other first team players and the manager in donating a day’s wages to fund more projects that transform young people’s lives. For further information visit www.arsenal.com/thearsenalfoundation