England were supposed to have learned from their mistakes in taking unfit footballers to major tournaments.
However, after his first full 90 minutes in 11 months, Jack Wilshere is confident he will be ready for the European Championship and relieved that, unlike Arsene Wenger, Roy Hodgson will play him in his favoured position.
Last year, Wilshere grew increasingly frustrated with being played out on the flanks by Arsenal and during the club’s pre-season tour of Singapore he said he would raise the issue with his manager. However, a broken fibula sustained in training shortly after the club’s return meant the issue became academic.
The 24-year-old was employed centrally by England in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Turkey, his first game since he scored twice against Slovenia in June. Afterwards, Wilshere claimed he would be fully fit for England’s opening Euro 2016 fixture, against Russia.
“That is the aim and I wouldn’t say I am far off it,” he said. “I have had games for Arsenal’s Under-21s and I know it is nowhere near this level but you can still test yourself.
“You can train as much as you want but you can’t get that fitness unless you play games. We have two more games before it starts and, hopefully, I will be 100 per cent.”
Wilshere said he wanted to play against both Australia on Friday and against Portugal at Wembley – but in the centre of midfield. “With Arsenal I have been playing out wide which is not me,” he said. “I am not a wide man but Roy seems to have faith in me in the middle so I am happy with that.
“I like to play anywhere in the middle. I played the holding role before and I really enjoyed that and, here, I was a bit higher up the pitch and I enjoyed that too.”
From Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking sitting out most of the 1982 World Cup to the metatarsals of Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, England have seldom prospered when taking gambles on half-fit footballers.
However, Wilshere’s play was so impressive in qualification – he was man of the match in the majority of England’s games – that Hodgson told him that he would be in the squad for France if he proved his fitness.
“I’ve worked with Roy and his staff for a number of years and they know what I bring and I know what they want from me,” he said. “We had to rebuild after the World Cup and I was quite a big part of that. I have repaid some of his faith in me and I’m thankful for that.”
There were some days in that long, barren season away from the Emirates Stadium when Wilshere confessed he did not believe he would make it. “You always have those days in the gym when you think you are not going to get back,” he said. “But the thing that kept me going was that I knew what it takes to get back and I had time on my side.
“I spoke quite a lot to Roy and his staff. I knew what he wanted from me and he made it clear. That helped me. He wasn’t giving me any deadlines; he just wanted to keep track of me.
“I am very excited. We have only been together for four days – the whole squad isn’t even together yet. It was a tough game against Turkey. We are happy about the result but we know we can do better.”