Jim Lyon - Well expressed? No. But Wilshere’s point is worth discussing

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

If you want considered opinion on a politically sensitive topic, taking the views of a Premier League footballer at face value is probably not the best place to start.

Jack Wilshere has copped an awful lot of stick for saying just because “you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English”.

He is right. It doesn’t.

But since then I’ve seen him described as a xenophobe, racist and even as a potential replacement for Tommy Robinson as leader of the English Defence League.

He might well be all of those, I don’t know. I’ve never met the guy.

However, we cannot take those conclusions from a simple response to a simple question that may not have been articulated too well.

Wilshere is a footballer. He is not a politician. He is not statesman or a spokesman.

Somewhere in there, nevertheless, is a valid point. And he did clarify his position later on by adding: “To be clear, never said ‘born in England’ - I said English people should play for England. Great respect for people like KP [Kevin Pietersen], Mo Farah and Wilf Zaha - they make the country proud.

“My view on football - going to a new country when you’re an adult, and because you can get a passport you play for that national team - I disagree.”

In many ways he is right.

Aside from any other issue makes a mockery of international football if a country can go an ‘recruit’ players from elsewhere.

The Republic of Ireland team under Jack Charlton were a laughing stock.

Successful they may have been but can anyone in the Emerald Isle honestly accept that Tony Cascarino and Andy Townsend should have played for their country?

Club sides can buy players in, countries should not.

Wilshere’s point, I think, was he felt people should not use moving to another country and trying to play for their new home as a career progression.

In rugby we have Toby Faletau playing for Wales. The lad was brought here as a child when his father moved for work – rugby as it happened – and has been raised there. That’s fine.

The likes of Brendan Laney – who had only been in Scotland for two days when he was called up to the national side at the age of 28 – is not, though.

He claimed to feel Scottish. So much so it took him 28 years to make it there from New Zealand and he now, having retired from playing rugby, lives and works in, er, New Zealand.

The difference between the two is clear.

It is also an easy object to throw when things don’t go wrong.

When Kevin Pietersen or Jonathan Trott perform badly for the England cricket team they always revert to being South African in the eyes of many supporters.

Trying desperately to soften your accent doesn’t deflect from that.

Wilshere has an opinion, shared by many in the game, and just because he didn’t put it across as well as he might he should not be shot down straight away.

His underlying point is one worth discussing.

And at least he wasn’t smoking, hey?