With a pair of stand-out performances in England’s final two fixtures of the 2014-15 season, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere may have belatedly come of age as an international footballer.
The 23-year-old was perhaps the only visiting player to emerge with any credit from England’s 0-0 friendly draw with Ireland in Dublin and in Ljubljana on Sunday, he broke his international duck with a stunning double that inspired Roy Hodgson’s men to a 3-2 win over Slovenia.
Wilshere has been deployed as the deepest midfielder during England’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign to date, either in a 4-3-3 formation or at the base of a midfield diamond, but Hodgson says that should not preclude him from exerting an influence in the final third.
“There is no reason why he cannot score more goals,” Hodgson told reporters at Stozice Stadion. “With the quality of his shooting here, it shows that.
“We will be encouraging it, that’s for sure, because we don’t want him playing behind players, we want him playing level with them.
“We don’t want to hold him back in front of the back four, we want to push him forward and he will get into those areas 30 yards from goal and make those little chips and slide balls, and shoot from distance.
“He seems to enjoy it and I enjoyed his performance.”
In August it will be five years since Wilshere made his England debut, aged 18, as a late replacement for Steven Gerrard in a friendly against Hungary, but with injuries having limited his involvement, it has taken him time to find his voice as an international footballer.
It took him 26 caps to register his first assist — a raking, 40-yard pass that was headed in by his Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during November’s 3-1 friendly win over Scotland in Glasgow — and his goals in the qualifier against Slovenia came at the 28th time of asking.
He is not prolific with Arsenal either, having scored only 12 goals in 153 first-team appearances, but when he does find the net, it tends to be in memorable fashion.