Jack Wilshere says he cannot wait to pull on a Claret and Blue shirt for the first time after joining his boyhood Club.
West Ham United’s new signing grew up in a Hammers-mad household, attending matches with his father and brother and idolising the likes of Paolo Di Canio and Joe Cole.
Nearly two decades later, Wilshere is eager to emulate his heroes after moving to London Stadium on a three-year contract.
Di Canio was a hero of mine, and a little bit later when I was trying to make it as a footballer myself, looking at Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and players like that coming through the system and they were players I pretended to be when I was younger
“I’m excited. I can’t wait to get going,” he said, before revealing that a conversation with manager Manuel Pellegrini convinced him to join the Hammers.
“I met with the manager and it was clear that he wanted me, where he wanted me to play and the style of football he wants to play. That’s something I want to be a part of, so I can’t wait to get going now.”
Wilshere is a footballer very much in the style of those he cheered on from the Boleyn Ground stands as a child, mixing outstanding technical ability and flair with tenacity and an unstinting work-rate.
A famous photograph of the 26-year-old wearing the iconic shirt worn by Di Canio when he scored his wondergoal against Wimbledon in 2000, when he was just eight, illustrates Wilshere’s long-held love for the Club.
“When I think of my childhood, I think of West Ham,” he confirmed. “I think of the shirts I had, the players I had on the back. I had a shirt with John Moncur on the back and I think everyone has seen that photo!
“I remember coming to Upton Park for my first game in 2000. We played Coventry and beat them 5-0. Di Canio scored a hat-trick, so Di Canio was a hero of mine, and a little bit later when I was trying to make it as a footballer myself, looking at Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and players like that coming through the system and they were players I pretended to be when I was younger.”
Back in the days when Di Canio and Moncur were in Claret and Blue, West Ham finished in the Premier League’s top nine four times in five seasons between 1998 and 2002.
Now, Wilshere has his sights set on emulating and, if things go to plan, bettering those achievements.
“Growing up as a West Ham fan in the early days, I remember them pushing for sixth, seventh, pushing for that Europa League or the Intertoto Cup and UEFA Cup as it was back then. So that’s where this Club needs to be.
“We don’t want to set a limit – Liverpool away in the first game is quite a tough start, but let’s take each game as it comes and get as many points on the table as we can, and see where we are.”
As Wilshere mentioned, his Premier League debut will likely come at Anfield on Sunday 12 August, followed by a London Stadium bow against AFC Bournemouth six days later.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of the West Ham fans,” he confirmed. “I’ve always had a special bond with this Club growing up and now I’m finally here I can’t wait to put the shirt on and run out here at London Stadium.
“Hopefully we can achieve big things together.”