Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere acknowledges that he still has a long way to go before he reaches full fitness.
The 20-year-old ended a 17-month lay-off by starting for the first time since his return from injury and playing 67 minutes in his side’s 1-0 win over QPR at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Wilshere expressed his delight at making a successful return but insists that he has more work to do in order to get back up to speed in the Premier League.
“After 60 minutes, I could feel my legs going even then,” he said.
“I’m still a long way from full fitness and everyone has to understand that. They do here at Arsenal. It’s a long journey and it’s going to take time.
“When you come back, there’s an expectation but I can deal with it. That’s part and parcel of football and there’s older players here who can keep my feet on the ground and help me.
“Just for now, I’m happy to be back. The feeling – I was just running round smiling – that feeling was amazing.
“I think the boss saw that I was struggling a bit and took me off. We’ve got a game on Tuesday (in the League Cup) and if I’m selected then I’m ready to play.”
Wilshere revealed that his young son Archie, who was born just over a year ago, helped him through the long process of rehabilitation after he suffered an ankle injury.
The initial problem was compounded when it caused a stress fracture in his heel in February but the England international was relieved to see his determination to recover finally rewarded.
“It’s been a long journey; I’ve been told it’s been 542 days since my last game,” Wilshere said.
“That’s a long time, especially not to have any competition. When you go to the training ground day after day, there’s times when you don’t want to do it, especially when you see all the boys go out to training.
“But you have to. For the last couple of months, I’ve been going in at 08.00 and going home at 16.00 and the hard work is paying off now.
“For any player to have four months out is tough, but to have a year out and another couple of months is frustrating. When you’re nearly back a couple of times and then have another setback it’s really hard to take.
“But I’ve got my son now and I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for him. He helped me through it massively, my family have helped me so much and it’ll strengthen me.”