Part Two: English Talents Ruined by Injury

Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere has long been heralded as the future of English football. A skilful, dynamic and versatile midfielder, expectations have always been high for the Londoner.

Wilshere, who made his Arsenal debut at just 16, has seen his development hampered by regular injury problems. After an incredible breakthrough at Arsenal, supplemented by a successful loan spell at Bolton, it seemed that Wilshere had the world at his feet.

Arsene Wenger famously labelled Wilshere as having “Spanish technique, but an English heart.”

Wilshere cemented his place in the Arsenal team in the 2010/11 season, making 49 appearances in all competitions. His impressive form led to his England debut at just 18.

Wilshere’s form earned him the PFA Young Player of the Year award, a place in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, and Arsenal Player of the Year.

A broken ankle halted his momentum, and Wilshere failed to make a single appearance for Arsenal in the 2011/12 season. In fact, he did not feature again in the Premier League for 17 months.

Upon his return in the 2012/13 season, he continued to shine, scoring two goals in 33 appearances. Wilshere sustained another fractured foot the following season, but returned in time to help Arsenal win the FA Cup, beating Hull 3-2 in the final.

In 2014/15, injuries restricted Wilshere to just 23 appearances, and his injury woes show no sign of letting up. In September, Wilshere was ruled out for three months due to a broken fibula.

At 23, Wilshere still has time to fulfil his unquestionable potential, but injuries are beginning to take their toll. Wilshere should have more than his 28 caps for England, and he has only made 169 club appearances to date.

With Arsenal’s current midfield options of Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsay, Sanchez but to name a few, Wilshere might find it difficult to find a place in Arsenal’s starting XI.

Only time will tell whether Wilshere can shake off his injury problems and develop into a world class midfielder.

Owen Hargreaves

Owen Hargreaves’ CV is laden with trophies and honours, but the defensive midfielder surely feels that he could have accomplished a lot more.

Hargreaves won 4 Bundesliga titles, a Champions League, a Continental Cup, and an array of German cups during his time with Bayern Munich.

Hargreaves’ early career was relatively injury free, but he managed only 9 appearances in his final season at Bayern.

2006 heralded the beginning of his injury horrors, when Hargreaves broke his leg. This onset of debilitating injuries came after Hargreaves was England’s standout player at the 2006 World Cup. Sadly, injury restricted the midfielder to just 42 caps.

In 2007, Manchester United signed Hargreaves for £17 million. Hargreaves won both the Premier League with and the Champions League with United in the 2007/08 season, but unfortunately, his time at Old Trafford was marred by a disastrous injury record.

In four seasons at United, Hargreaves only made 43 appearances. He even went 777 days without starting for the Red Devils. He was released in 2011.

Hargreaves posted several videos of himself exercising online (see below), in a bid to show his injuries were behind him. Man City subsequently signed him, but he managed just 4 appearances in his solitary season at the club.

Hargreaves then admitted defeat, and retired due to his chronic knee problems.

Jonathon Woodgate

Only injuries prevented Jonathon Woodgate from being a consistently world class centre half. It is sad to think that he retired with only 8 caps for England, and that a League Cup was his solitary trophy.

Woodgate established himself as a precious talent at Leeds United, where he made 142 appearances.

In January 2003, he was sold to Newcastle for £9 million to alleviate Leeds’ financial problems. A multitude of injury problems restricted Woodgate to just 37 league appearances in two seasons for the Magpies. Nevertheless, his impressive displays while fit drew the attention of Real Madrid, who signed him for £13.4 million in 2004.

Once again, Woodgate’s stint at Madrid was ravaged by injury. Due to his injuries, he did not make an appearance for Madrid until 2005. His debut was disastrous; he scored an own goal before being sent off.

Woodgate’s quality did shine through, and by the end of 2006, he was a first choice defender for the club. However, injuries scuppered his development, and he made just 14 appearances for Los Blancos.

Woodgate subsequently returned to his boyhood club Middlesborough, before signing for Spurs in 2008, where he won the League Cup with Spurs in the 2007/08 season. Despite being a fan favourite, Woodgate continued to be plagued by injury problems.

Woodgate signed for Stoke in 2011 for one season, before returning to Middlesborough, where he still plies his trade.

Unfortunately for England, and himself, Woodgate has never been able to shake free of his persistent injuries.

by David Smith

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