Jack Wilshere is not expecting England’s Euro 2016 meeting with Wales to be a case of friends reunited.
Thursdays’ Group B match in Lens is the first time the neighbouring nations have met since the Euro 2012 qualifiers, when England won home and away.
Wales’ Real Madrid star Gareth Bale fired the first broadside in the opposing direction last week, criticising England for a lack of passion and suggesting they “big themselves up before they’ve done anything.”
Arsenal midfielder Wilshere reacted with a wry smile when those comments were relayed to him at England’s Chantilly base, adding: “We know that Wales don’t like us.”
Asked if he and his team-mates were fond of their neighbours, Wilshere was equally brief and just as clear.
“Not really,” he said, again smiling.
He was, though, keen to point out that Bale’s criticism’s did not chime with his own experiences on England duty.
“I’ve never questioned the passion of one of my teammates,” he said.
“I’ve never been on the pitch and thought, ‘This guy isn’t worried about this.’ We all care. We all know what it means to people back home.
“Especially now, because we are a young squad — it was only a few years ago when people like Dele and Raheem were 14, 15 watching this.
“So we all know what it means, and we will be ready when Thursday comes.
“I have played against [Wales] before and we won so they will be looking for some revenge, but I think if we play the way we did [against Russia] and take a few more chances we have a good chance.”
If there was one member in the opposition dressing room that Wilshere could definitely call a friend, it would be his fellow Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
But even those two have kept their distance since arriving in France.
“There’s been no texts, not since I was last at the club,” said Wilshere.
“I think we have both been busy. He has been getting ready, I have been getting ready. It is going to be a big game.”
Wilshere was named in England’s 23-man squad, ahead of Leicester title-winner Danny Drinkwater, despite starting just once for Arsenal at the end of an injury-wrecked campaign.
But his path back to the first XI has been hampered not only by those who played in his absence, but by captain Wayne Rooney’s belated conversion to a deeper role.
He was used in midfield for the first time in his 112-cap career against Russia, giving way for Wilshere for the final 13 minutes.
As someone who has spent his entire professional life honing that role, Wilshere would be forgiven for resenting Rooney’s late switch.
But instead he is simply in awe of the talents the Manchester United man brings to bear.
“It hurts me to say but he plays the position unbelievably,” he said.
“I’ve said it before: I think he’s our best player. I’m open about that. I’ve played with him for years. He can still play up front in my opinion but against Russia, he was probably our best player.
“Everything went through him. He’s got that range of passing, he understands the game.
“In training as well, now and then, when he picks up the ball deep and sprays a long pass and he never gets one wrong. He’s always perfect. That’s when you can tell he has something special.
“I love watching him and I love playing with him as well.
“I think we can play together. I think there’s two positions there.”