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Arsenal's Jack Wilshere thought World Cup chance with England had gone

Jack Wilshere has said he thought his hopes of going to the World Cup were over when Arsene Wenger told him he could leave Arsenal last summer.

Wilshere is aiming to win his 35th England cap -- his first since playing in the Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland -- in Friday's friendly against Netherlands in Amsterdam.

The 26-year-old has earned a recall after overcoming long-term fitness concerns by making 31 first-team appearances for Arsenal this season.

Wenger had told him he could move on from the Gunners, but also said he could opt to stay and fight for his place.

"I think that is fair to say [that he had felt his World Cup hopes were over] because I wasn't getting in the Arsenal team and the manager said I could leave if I wanted to," Wilshere told reporters at England's St George's Park training base.

"I was in the position that I did not know what was going to happen in the coming season.

"I was on the bike in the gym at the time [when Wenger told him he could leave]. It was a strange one, because maybe part of me knew all this already -- all I needed was some clarity on where I stood in the football club.

"How I felt after? I don't really know, it is hard to say. It did make me think because he had said I could fight for my position.

"I chose to stay and fight and I was always confident in my ability but, at the end of the day, it is down to the manager and whether he puts you in the team or not.

Jack Wilshere is now a free agent after his contract expired.
Jack Wilshere is hoping to win his 35th cap with England.

"Thankfully he has and I have stayed in there. I have always had the confidence in myself and felt that if I got in there I could put in the performances that would give me the opportunity to be back here with England.

"But it is down to the manager of Arsenal for picking me, so I am thankful for that. It was an honest conversation with the manager. We have known each other long enough where we can have that relationship where we are honest with each other.

"It was boiling up for a while because everybody knew I had a year left on my deal and I had been out on loan, got injured, and wasn't really in his plans.

"He said: 'I am going to be honest with you and at the moment we are not going to be offering you a contact, so if you can get a contract somewhere else, you can go.'

"Obviously I was not happy with that, but at the same time I was happy he was being honest. He gave me the opportunity with three or four weeks left in the transfer window, but I did not find anything that I wanted and at the same time I was not really fit, so I decided that I wanted to stay and build up my fitness.

"He also said at the same time that if I did say I had an opportunity to fight for my place, and if I performed well in the Carabao Cup and Europa League, I had a chance. The main thing was proving my fitness to the manager and proving that I could play on a Thursday and play on a Sunday, then repeat that.

"Where am I now, on a scale of one to 10? I don't know, but I am a player who always wants to give more. I should be scoring more goals. I am not happy with the numbers this year. Having said that, I am coming from a position where I have been told I can leave.

"My main target was getting in the team and staying there. I have done that."

Wilshere has yet to commit to a new Arsenal contract, so he could go to the World Cup and become a free agent on July 1 before he returns to the UK.

"Hopefully, I'll get the chance this week or next week to put the [England] shirt back on again and it will be special," he said.

"I've always said I love representing my country. I've been fortunate enough to do it 34 times now and it is something that I've missed.

"I never gave hope that I could do it again. I was in the squad 18 months ago and I didn't get the chance but I've always felt like it's somewhere I belong and I want to be involved in this.

"We've got some big games coming up so going into the World Cup, hopefully I will be fit and, if selected, confident."

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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