Jack Wilshere key as England aim to beat Brazil at Wembley
Gerrard praises Wilshere's 'scary' talent but warns England not to heap too much pressure on him
ENGLAND captain Steven Gerrard has described Jack Wilshere's talent as "scary" and predicts the Arsenal midfielder will become one of the greats of the game.
Wilshere makes his first start for England after an 18-month injury lay-off in the friendly against Brazil this evening, and midfield partner Gerrard is relishing the opportunity to play alongside the youngster. "I hope he brings out the best in all of us," said Gerrard. "He's a top player and I hope he gives the dressing room a lift. We need competition for places if we're going to get to [the 2014 World Cup in] Brazil."
Wilshere made a brief appearance as a substitute in England's friendly against Sweden in Stockholm in November, but tonight at Wembley he'll be there from the start as the hosts look to beat the Samba boys for the first time since 1990. "We're all delighted he's back," said Gerrard. "He's only 21 and a fantastic talent. He'll get better and better than he is now, which is a scary thought. He has the potential to become one of the best in the world."
Gerrard and Wilshere clashed last week in the Premier League when Liverpool held Arsenal to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates, a match that allowed the Liverpool skipper a close-up view of the man destined to replace him as England's creative catalyst. "Playing against him recently and in training, he's a one-off," said the 32-year-old Gerrard. "He's a lot better than your normal Premier League midfielder. I have a lot of confidence in him."
But Gerrard warned the country not to heap too much pressure on Wilshere's young shoulders, particularly in the light of Paul Gascoigne's recent misfortune. Citing the likes of veterans such as Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, Gerrard said of the Arsenal star: "It's up to us to put our arms round him and make sure the press do not put too much pressure on him. It's vital there's not too much expectation.
"One man cannot carry a nation on his own. I can only tell him to try to keep his feet on the ground and try to enjoy it. His career will be full of ups and downs, but he has the mentality to handle it."
England manager Roy Hodgson revealed that the plight of Gascoigne, who is now in an American rehabilitation clinic receiving treatment for alcohol addition, has troubled the England squad.
"Steve Gerrard has gone to the FA and said anything the players can do, they would like to contribute," explained Hodgson. "Many of them looked up to him as the star player of the day. I just hope he realises that he is so well loved and respected that a lot of us are very sad to see him fighting to get his life back to where he wants it to be."
Meanwhile Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole will tonight join an elite band of England players to have won 100 caps for their country. Cole joins Peter Shilton (125 caps), David Beckham (115), Bobby Moore (108), Bobby Charlton (106), Billy Wright (105) and Steven Gerrard (100) as England centurions.
Cole described himself as "proud, privileged and overwhelmed" at the honour though tonight's encounter with a talented Brazil side may prove to be one of his toughest assignments to date.