Wilshere the next Gazza
Wilshere can both shield and score at Euro 2016
(Milivoje Novakovic 37, Nejc Pecnik 84)
(Jack Wilshere 57, 73, Wayne Rooney 86)
Memories are short in football. The game lives in the moment.
Yesterday's feats belong to yesterday's men and Jack Wilshere was at serious risk of becoming an unwanted member of an inglorious club.
England's star man against Slovenia yesterday morning (Singapore time) once had salivating pundits queuing up to bestow him with tags and labels.
He was a box-to-box graduate from Bryan Robson's retro school of hard knocks.
He was England's great white hope with a dash of Steven Gerrard's lung capacity and a pinch of Frank Lampard's attacking punch.
With ironic timing, he was mostly compared to the enigma whose heartbreaking documentary was released on the same weekend the Arsenal man sliced through the Slovenians.
Wilshere was going to be the next Paul Gascoigne. And in some ways, he was.
While his peers pulled away, he toiled in the treatment room. His fragile ankle taunted him all season. As his focus weakened, his patience soon followed.
Social media shamed him. Those photos of him smoking saw him bottom out.
Publically, he had to be put down by club manager Arsene Wenger. Privately, he fumed at what he perceived to be a lack of proportion over a trivial issue.
He was looking a lot like Gazza, but not in the way anticipated. He was becoming the cliched character in his own cautionary tale.
But, if social media over-exaggerated the midfielder's shortcomings, it also underplayed his superlative gifts.
So, he reminded the world yesterday morning.
He owned Slovenia in the second half. Yes, Euro 2016 opponents will be made of sterner stuff than the honest toilers who are ranked 48th in the world.
But the Slovenians went in at half-time with a 1-0 lead, thanks in large part to England's defensive indiscipline and the obligatory error from Phil Jones.
So Roy Hodgson tinkered, switching from a static 4-3-3 to a bolder 4-1-4-1, with Wilshere pulled back into a holding role.
Hodgson's tactical gamble would be settled by Wilshere's performance.
He didn't just step up. He ran up, tearing forward with the frenzied urgency of Roadrunner, scoring twice and leaving panting Slovenian coyotes in his slipstream.
Two left-footed finishes outside the box - same position; same thumping, curling strike; same final destination - evoked the very best of Sir Bobby Charlton, Paul Scholes and even Martin Peters.
They were all English ghosts, arriving late to haunt unsuspecting opponents.
Wilshere's second goal should be broken down into a series of still photographs and hung at England's training base under the heading, "do this more often".
Slick, quick, one-touch-passing culminated with a strike of rare beauty from Wilshere.
His last England goal came at Under-17 level and Hodgson, Wenger and the midfielder himself have all expressed a desire for him to shoot more often.
His two finishes displayed the unerring accuracy of drone strikes and Wilshere admitted after the game that he needs to contribute more goals like Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes before him.
Ironically, the first two halted his progress at international level. At previous tournaments, Hodgson favoured old men in midfield.
In Brazil last year, Gerrard started against Italy and was overwhelmed in a painfully, poignant display. Wilshere was thrown in with only 15 minutes to play.
Had he been a Spaniard, he might have been viewed as less of a risk and more of a necessity at an earlier stage. He's a young midfielder with a certain style and substance very much favoured by the Catalans.
Once Wilshere dropped back against Slovenia, he shielded the back four and surged forward to support Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling.
Quick with a tackle and even quicker with a pass, he fills the void left long ago by Owen Hargreaves; a pivotal defensive midfield role that Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano and Paul Pogba perform so consistently for club and country.
But his ferocious strikes bore closer resemblance to Charlton and Scholes, revealing the makings of a magnificent hybrid perfectly suited to the modern formation that fluctuates between 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1.
Victory in Slovenia offered a timely reminder of what's been lurking in the shadows of the Three Lions' midfield.
At both Arsenal and England, other stars burned brighter as Wilshere toiled in treatment rooms, a forlorn figure and a near forgotten footballer.
But his flawless display against Slovenia jogged the memory. He's fully fit and improving. And he's still only 23.
For Hodgson, he brings a solution to the tactical whiteboard. For England, he brings belief ahead of Euro 2016. For Arsenal, he still brings uncertainty.
Wilshere has already convinced Hodgson of his integral value. Now he must convince Wenger.
Five-year wait for goals
It has taken five years for Jack Wilshere to break his duck with England, but on this evidence it was worth the wait.
Wilshere's first was a fierce arrow into the far corner after a poor clearance. The second was the pick of the pair. Jordan Henderson played the ball to Adam Lallana, who flicked the ball into Wilshere's path and he let fly with a fierce drive into the top right-hand corner.
"His whole performance was quality," Roy Hodgson said of the Arsenal midfielder.
When asked if it was the best goal he had seen in his three-year tenure as England boss, Hodgson said: "It's always the last one which excites me the most. I'd have to have all the goals put before me (to make a decision).
"I remember Andy Carroll's bullet header (in Euro 2012), but I'm very happy with Jack, the goals he's scored and his performance.
"In the second half, he was controlling that midfield, it was a performance we've not seen from him for a while now."
- PA Sport.
"The win is very pleasing. It’s nearly 25 years ago (for an England manager to have an unbeaten run) since it’s been done. So, we are really proud, especially because these games have come in June and it’s hard to concentrate and put your England hat on."
— Roy Hodgson, who has won all six England Qualifiers since Brazil
BY THE NUMBERS
Years since an England manager enjoyed an unbeaten season.