The nation mourned when Emile Heskey retired from international football last year, and rightly so -for England knew that what stretched out before them was what adulterous husbands tend to refer to as a ‘transitional period’ when the kids finally ask why Mummy hasn’t been home in nearly three weeks.
Forgive me. I ramble, for it still hurts.
The sporting sorrow that engulfed the land was tangible. As a footballing entity, we were left to repatriate our faith.
It was time to choose a new hero, but decide we could not – there were no more Heskey’s left to pick up and carry the outbound original’s weighty mantle.
The obvious candidate was one Wayne Rooney, though he was quickly found out as being the sweaty pink hod-carrier that he really is.
Next came the spry figure of young Theo Walcott, though the spring-heeled Arsenal babe seems fated to see out his career stuck firmly in ‘excited puppy in a waxed hallway’ mode.
Since that fateful day (15th July, 2010) England have been cast adrift on an ocean of apathy, lost without a messianic saviour to root out, burden accordingly, then crush into unidentifiable vegetable matter through the chrome-plated grille of the nation’s monolithically self-important footballing garlic press.
That was until today.
Step forward, 19-year-old Jack Wilshere, who, according to manager Fabio Capello, is to be groomed (starting with England’s friendly against Denmark on February 9th) into the national side’s ‘Claude Makelele’ – only better.
Capello told the Daily Telegraph:
“Wilshere will be one of the new players [to play against Denmark). I’ve monitored him for five months and he has improved a lot.
I want to try to put him in this position in front of the defence. He is mature enough to play this role.
Wilshere is better technically than Makelele, though Makelele was faster. When he receives the ball, Wilshere is more dangerous than Makelele.”
Capello continued, making damn sure that he slung the dreaded ‘F’ word around Wilshere’s adolescent neck like some kind of albatross-feather yoke:
“Wilshere is the best new young player and playing all the time with Arsenal.
If you play with Arsenal, you are a really good player. Wenger likes the good player.
It is important for Wilshere to understand that he will be the future.”
Got that? Wilshere is a slower-though-several-times-better-despite-being-nearly-two-decades-younger player than Makelele (y’know, of the ‘Makelele role’ fame?) ever was and ever will be.
And, just for the record, he’s also the best young player out there.
Roll on 2012.