x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Wilshere against Januzaj’s England move

'The only people who should play for England are English people,' Arsenal star says about Belgian teenager's international options.

Adnan Januzaj, centre, is already eligible to play for Belgium, Serbia, Albania, Turkey and even Kosovo. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
Adnan Januzaj, centre, is already eligible to play for Belgium, Serbia, Albania, Turkey and even Kosovo. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

Jack Wilshere believes the English Football Association should forget any idea of ushering Adnan Januzaj, the Manchester United youngster, into the England fold.

It has become apparent Januzaj could eventually be eligible for England through residency, having so far opted not to commit to any alternative.

The 18 year old joined United in 2011, and would qualify for England duty if he remained in the country until February 2018.

It seems unlikely that is the path Januzaj would choose to follow given he was born in Belgium and is also available for Serbia, Albania and Turkey, as well as Kosovo, although they are not an officially sanctioned Fifa country.

However, Wilshere is uncomfortable with the mere prospect.

“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.”

It has been noted following the departure of their second continental manager – Fabio Capello – ahead of Euro 2012, the English FA ignored an approach on behalf of Pep Guardiola, so keen were they to install an English replacement.

Wilshere backed that move, even though he admitted he has plenty to thank Capello for.

“Don’t get me wrong, Capello did a lot for my England career,” he said.

“He bought me here, gave me my debut and stuck with me from a young age so he was a good manager.

“But I think it would be better if there was an Englishman.”

It is rather unfortunate for Januzaj to find himself at the centre of such a debate for it is thought his reluctance to commit his international future stems from an acute knowledge of the sensitivities surrounding the political status of Kosovo.

He has certainly never expressed a desire to represent England and, purely on football grounds, it would appear a fairly straightforward decision to choose Belgium, who have so many good players at their disposal and look set to book their own World Cup berth over the coming days.

The situation is not clear cut though.

There have been plenty of non-English born players who have worn the Three Lions, whilst of the present Under 21 squad, Raheem Sterling was born in Jamaica and Wilfried Zaha in Ivory Coast.

“It’s a difficult one,” said Gareth Southgate, the England U21 coach.

“He [Januzaj] has not played for anyone else.

“We have lots of boys in our squad who were not born here, whose families have fled here.

“There are some wonderful stories and they are all incredibly proud to play for England.

“I’m torn with it. The world is changing. People move and work abroad.

“It is important to know why someone wants to play for you.

“We seem to have embraced the cricket team that has won the Ashes but it is a really interesting, philosophical debate.”

Wilshere’s observations at least earned him a little respite from the incessant ribbing over his smoking antics.

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

He has since been reprimanded by Arsene Wenger and issued an apology.

Not that it has earned him any credit on the training ground.

“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.”

Yet Wilshere accepts it was an error of judgement.

“It is not just players who make mistakes,” he said.

“If I get caught it looks bad but it’s been dealt with now.

“I said before I am not a smoker. I don’t smoke 10 a day as some have been saying.

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

“We have to be at the top of our game. I am playing with the best players – Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla.

“You can’t be slacking behind them.”