Jack Wilshere was on hand to witness the next generation of professional footballers taking their first steps into the beautiful game yesterday evening, at the official launch of the Utilita Kids and Girls Cup.
The midfielder, who was most recently on the books of Sky Bet Championship side AFC Bournemouth, was joined by Karen Carney at The Valley.
In between kick-abouts, he caught up with the EFL to discuss the role the competition plays in the development of young players.
“It’s nice for the kids to get into a proper stadium and get a little taste of it,” he explained. “Hopefully it will inspire one of them to go on and be a footballer.”
The 29-year-old notched his first goal for Arsenal in the League Cup in September 2008 against Sheffield United, chipping in during a resounding 6-0 victory. Wilshere made it 5-0 as the Gunners progressed to Round Four of the competition and it wasn’t long before his first professional contract followed.
And he encouraged the schoolchildren to get involved, with grassroots football playing an active part in many current EFL footballers’ careers.
“I think Clubs and the EFL are doing a great job now with trying to involve kids from a young age, especially after the 18 months we’ve been through where everyone’s been locked down,” he added. “It’s been good to get out and be active and play football.
“I’m sure every English player, in the EFL or the Premier League, at one point in their life played in grassroots. It’s a start for everyone. We do a fantastic job in this country. I’ve got kids that play in it and they love it. The coaches are brilliant and it’s a great setup so it’s very important.
“I think it’s just about inspiring the next generation to go on and try to be a professional footballer.”