Jack Wilshere again the center of smoking controversy after photo surfaces

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Arsenal's English midfielder Jack Wilshere damaged ankle ligaments in a challenge during the league match against Manchester United in London on November 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Adrian Dennis)
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A new photo has surfaced of Jack Wilshere holding a shisha pipe at a nightclub. This is the third time a photo depicting the Arsenal midfielder smoking has appeared. The first one surfaced in October of 2013, showing the midfielder outside a London nightclub with a cigarette. The second time was last summer in Las Vegas where Wilshere was attending a pool party with England teammate Joe Hart. On both occasions, Wilshere apologized, maintained he was a non-smoker and said it would never happen again.

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“I'm young and I will learn from it,” Wilshere told the Guardian after the Vegas incident.” I realize the consequences it has and the effect on kids growing up.”

Six months on and the midfielder, who just turned 23 and is no longer that young, doesn’t appear to have learned anything.

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In the latest image, he appears with three young women, baseball cap on backwards, drink in one hand, shisha (a kind of hookah) pipe in the other. It’s hardly an image suggestive of a young player with great potential who’s suffered injury setbacks and is desperate to get back to his best and prove himself at the highest level.

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Smoking among soccer players is nothing new. Zinedine Zidane, Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and even Wilshere’s Arsenal teammate Mesut Ozil are all known to have smoked during their careers. But in today’s world of players as perfectly engineered athletes, there’s no room to be lax when it comes to taking care of one’s body. Not for a player who is serious about competing at the highest level anyway. But right now, the question many are asking is "Just how serious is Jack Wilshere?"

When he first broke into Arsenal’s first team at age 17, he seemed like one of the most promising young talents England had seen for some time. However six years later, Wilshere is a player many feel has failed to live up to his potential.

“Jack Wilshere, he came on the scene and what a top player he looked, but he’s never really gone on,” Manchester United legend Paul Scholes said on Sky Sports last March. “He doesn’t look any better now than he did at 17.”

Scholes has since backpedaled on his statement, but part of Wilshere’s problem as a player does stem from being unable to sustain his best form consistently. This certainly has to do with his constant injury problems. And while smoking the occasional cigarette may not be catastrophic, neither is it conducive to maximizing recovery and ensuring you’ll be back on the pitch in top form as soon as possible.

Wilshere needs to start behaving in a way that sends a different message about what’s important to him. He so much as admitted it himself following last summer’s Vegas incident.

“I have kids myself and I don’t want them growing up to think their dad smokes and it is OK for a footballer to smoke, because it’s not,” Wilshere said. “It is unacceptable and I will accept the consequences and I will move on.”

Wilshere is currently sidelined by the latest bout of ankle problems that have seen him in and out of the team for the past few years. But even when fit, he’s no longer a guaranteed starter in an Arsenal midfield that’s spilling over with talent.

Smoking is never a good idea for anyone, let alone a soccer player. But this is especially true on a team like Arsenal, with a manager like Arsene Wenger who demands players take responsibility for keeping themselves in peak condition. Just ask Wojciech Szczesny. Since being busted for smoking in the shower following Arsenal’s New Year’s Day loss to Southampton, the Poland international hasn’t started a single Premier League match.

If Jack Wilshere isn’t careful, he may find it’s not just his ankle problems that are keeping him out of the Arsenal team.