Wilshere plays down World Cup talk

LONDON - Arsenal's teenage talent Jack Wilshere has played down talk that he could make the England squad for next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

The midfielder, who turns 18 on New Year's Day, said in his first interview on Sunday that he was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

"I'd rather there wasn't the hype," he told the Sunday Times newspaper. "(England talk) is nice to hear but it's difficult too. I mean, I can look forward to things but I'm not stupid.

"You've got to play for your club first and I'm looking to play regularly for Arsenal before anything else," added the teenager who has made six first team appearances so far this season.

"Realistically, no, it's not going to happen," he said of the World Cup.

"There's players ahead of me. I wouldn't be heartbroken if I didn't go."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has compared Wilshere to England striker Wayne Rooney, for his attacking play and self-belief, while England manager Fabio Capello has also noticed him.

"He surprised me. Really," Capello said in August after Wilshere stood out in a pre-season tournament.

"He plays without fear, with confidence. Other players passed the ball always to him. It's confidence. This is not normal, to be so young and so good."

Wilshere's Arsenal team mate Theo Walcott went to the last World Cup with England as a 17-year-old, before he had played in the Premier League, although the attacking midfielder did not play in the tournament.

Wenger has used him selectively, despite making him Arsenal's youngest league player at the age of 16 and 256 days as well as the club's youngest player in Europe, but Wilshere could be loaned out to further his development.

"I would prefer to go to a Premier League club," he told the newspaper. You'd rather stay in the league where you are going to play. I'd love West Ham but I'll go where the boss thinks best.

"When I came into the team I felt ready but now I see I've improved. I know better when to pass and when I should dribble and the manager says I can learn a little more."