Gerrard wary of Wilshere expectations

England skipper Steven Gerrard has pleaded for Jack Wilshere to be spared the heavy weight of expectation being hung round his neck.

Football News: Jack Wilshere

Wilshere is expected to start alongside Gerrard for the first time on Wednesday when England take on Brazil in their high-profile friendly at Wembley.

Though the 21-year-old made his international bow in August 2010, a succession of injuries means Wilshere has managed just 13 minutes alongside Gerrard, in the November defeat to Sweden.

Yet the pair have been viewed as England's first choice midfield since Wilshere first emerged from the Arsenal youth ranks, with a reputation that has only grown during the intervening years.

However, whilst Gerrard recognises a very special talent, he is wary of the eulogies being paid to a player who has still only made 99 appearances at club level, including a loan stint at Bolton, and six times for his country.

"I don't like the world-class tag being given out to young players," said Gerrard.

"These young players with huge potential have to go out and prove, in the Premier League, Champions League and at international level, that they are good enough to compete against other world-class players.

"Maybe, if they do, the tag world class can be given out.

"Jack's career will be full of ups and downs, and I think he has the mentality to handle it, but it is vital we don't put too much pressure and expectation on him.

"One man can't carry a nation. He needs other players to help."

Yet Gerrard cannot help noticing the ability that has captivated so many seasoned England observers, having been in direct confrontation with him just 10 days ago.

"He's got a bit of everything," said Gerrard.

"He can tackle, get up and down the pitch, create a goal, score a goal, pass.

"He can tick almost every box, and he's going to get better.

"He's got the potential to become one of the best in the world, and I don't want to add any pressure because that is unfair.

"But playing against him recently and in training, he's a one-off.

"He's a lot better than your normal Premier League midfielder and I have a lot of confidence in him."

Indeed, Wilshere is so good that, at some stage, he will assume Gerrard's current lofty status within the England fold.

Not that the Liverpool star is ready to hand on the baton just yet.

"It is not just Jack who's after my shirt," he said.

"The under-21s, (Michael) Carrick and (Scott) Parker all want it.

"I have to make sure I keep performing. I'm prepared to fight with anyone in this country to keep my shirt."

Yet Gerrard's caution is understandable.

For, as coach Roy Hodgson pointed out, so much can happen from the start of a player's career to prevent them reaching the landmark of 100 caps, as Gerrard did in Sweden and Ashley Cole will do on Wednesday.

"It takes an innate talent, and a lot of work on that talent to be a player like Steven or Ashley, about to win their 100th caps for a country like England where the pressure is huge," said Hodgson.

"It also requires humility and modesty, because along the way you'll be encouraged to become incredibly big headed, with people telling you you're world class when you've played three or four games.

"You have to achieve what the likes of Gerrard or Cole are doing now and do it over a consistent period of time, accepting there will be great moments and other moments when people are saying you're hopeless and shouldn't have been considered in the first place."

And that, according to Hodgson, is the most important aspect of all.

"That mental strength is probably the hardest thing for us as coaches to deal with," he said.

"How do you give people mental strength?

"You can coach them, lend a hand on tactical points and help them by putting the right people around them.

"But the one thing you can't help them with is that rollercoaster ride that comes when you're on the way to becoming a top-class player at a top-class nation."



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