What heartening news to hear that England manager Gareth Southgate is looking forward to bringing back Jack Wilshere into the field. This despite the fact that at Arsenal Arsene Wenger has made grudging use of him in the first team. He did at last get on the field last weekend at Everton, though only for a brief spell late in the second half.
This labouring England team badly need the creative skills of Wilshere, and as we know from that match in Slovenia he can score vital goals, too. He says that he enjoyed himself last season on loan at Bournemouth, and he is now taking his coaching badges. Good for him but arguably a secondary consideration.
With Ozil (suddenly alive and alight at Everton) and Sanchez out of contract come the summer, Wilshere, whose own contract is up then but he shows no signs of wanting to leave, could be vital to the Gunners’ future.
That Southgate has been bold enough to support him now is a tribute to the manager and something of a reproach to Wenger, who has himself praised Wilshere publicly but still made such scant use of him in the top team.
For boyhood fans of my epoch, Stanley Matthews was a kind of demi god. It was reckoned that when he came to play in London for Blackpool he would put 10,000 on the gate. Now there is a new and laudatory book about him by his son, a useful tennis player in his day.
As a journalist I came to know Stanley quite well and even had the honour of being taken out to lunch by him on the day he returned to Stoke where it had all begun from Blackpool.
Much in the book is made of what came to be known as the Matthews Final of 1953. Romantically, his last chance of winning the FA Cup, having twice ended on the losing side. In the event, late and dramatically he turned the game, enabling Blackpool to come from behind and succeed.
Yet I have always felt that romanticim has overwhelmed reality over those frantic moments. The fact being that by then Bolton, the opposition, had lost both their left back Banks and and their left half Ball to injury. Could they have stopped Stanley in those last fraught moments?
Good though to see the co-called Wizard of Dribble celebrated again. How well I do recall standing beside him in the Stoke dressing room before that comeback game. When I spoke to him he responded, “I’m not really with you at the moment, Brian.” As he had remarked over that lunch, “You must have butterflies.”
There has been a recent attempt to analyse the swerve which took him past so many left-backs on the outside over the years. “Don’t ask me how I do it,” he once pleaded. “It just comes out of me under pressure.”
The problem of whoever takes over Everton, and it looks as if it would be Burnley’s able Sean Dyche, the lack of a potent centre-forward will be a major problem. Romelu Lukaku left during the close season and there is no one ready to take on the mantle of him, Dixie Dean and Tommy Lawton.
Dyche long ago played doughty centre-half in a lower league team, Chesterfield, that reached the FA Cup semi-finals, only to be eliminated by Middlesbrough despite having a perfectly good goal ruled out by David Elleray the referee. Then a housemaster at Harrow School, Elleray’s career wasn’t harmed by that or by the contempt with which his autobiography, self-serving to a degree, was greeted. He is now capo di tutti i capi (boss of all bosses), quite recently surviving a small controversy when he seemed to be insulting a dark-skinned colleague.
Everton are of course a club with hugely greater potential than Burnley. If Dyche does get the job, he will at least one presumes make a better tactical job of it than Ronald Koeman. Ideally giving a sustained chance to the 20-year-old ex-Charlton winger Ademola Lookman. But the defence needs a good hard look. Keeper apart.