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Feb 6, 2013

Gerrard warns against Wilshere pressure

England captain Steven Gerrard believes Jack Wilshere is being suffocated by unrealistic expectations, insisting the Arsenal midfielder should be allowed to develop in his own time.

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Wilshere, 21, has been burdened by pressure since his breakthrough season in 2010-11, although the youngster has thus far delivered on the hopes of his club and country.

But Gerrard claims that although Wilshere has the character to deal with the 'world class' tag, the rest of the Three Lions squad must ensure they don't become reliant on him.

"I don't like the world-class tag being given out to young players," Gerrard said. "These young players with huge potential have to go out and prove, in the Premier League, Champions League and at international level, that they are good enough to compete against other world-class players.

"Maybe, if they do, the tag world class can be given out. Jack's career will be full of ups and downs, and I think he has the mentality to handle it, but it is vital we don't put too much pressure and expectation on him. One man can't carry a nation. He needs other players to help."

Despite attempts to rid Wilshere of stress, Gerrard was quick to praise the man who could take his place in the Three Lions squad after facing him during Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Arsenal just 10 days ago.

"He's got a bit of everything," he said. "He can tackle, get up and down the pitch, create a goal, score a goal, pass. He can tick almost every box, and he's going to get better. He's got the potential to become one of the best in the world, and I don't want to add any pressure because that is unfair.

"But playing against him recently and in training, he's a one-off. He's a lot better than your normal Premier League midfielder and I have a lot of confidence in him."

"It is not just Jack who's after my shirt. The under-21s, (Michael) Carrick and (Scott) Parker all want it. I have to make sure I keep performing. I'm prepared to fight with anyone in this country to keep my shirt."

England boss Roy Hodgson agreed with Gerrard in claiming that the mental challenge of football is the key to achieving longevity, as evidenced by Ashley Cole who will reach the landmark of 100 caps in Wednesday's friendly against Brazil.

"It takes an innate talent, and a lot of work on that talent to be a player like Steven or Ashley, about to win their 100th caps for a country like England where the pressure is huge," Hodgson said. "It also requires humility and modesty, because along the way you'll be encouraged to become incredibly big headed, with people telling you you're world class when you've played three or four games.

"You have to achieve what the likes of Gerrard or Cole are doing now and do it over a consistent period of time, accepting there will be great moments and other moments when people are saying you're hopeless and shouldn't have been considered in the first place.

"That mental strength is probably the hardest thing for us as coaches to deal with. How do you give people mental strength? You can coach them, lend a hand on tactical points and help them by putting the right people around them.

"But the one thing you can't help them with is that rollercoaster ride that comes when you're on the way to becoming a top-class player at a top-class nation."

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