Following his goal in his side’s 1-1 draw against West Brom at the weekend, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has promised never to smoke again after being pictured having a cigarette outside a London nightclub.

The Gunners midfielder was the centre of controversy last week after photos of him smoking whilst on a night out appeared in the media.

Initially Wilshere denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he was merely holding the cigarette for a dare. However, he also posted a photo to social networking site Twitter of former Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane having a cigarette during his playing days, before claiming he had made a ‘mistake’ and was not a smoker.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was highly critical of his player, stating: "I disagree completely with that behaviour. I will need to have a chat with him about that.

"There are two things: first of all when you are a football player you are an example and as well you don't do what damages your health."

Wenger was quite right to be disappointed with Wilshere’s behaviour. However, Arsenal’s no.10 also ought to be disappointed with himself. Not only does smoking as a professional footballer send out a bad message to aspiring young players, it is also incredibly short-sighted and thoughtless. A professional athlete only has a very short period of time in which he/she is at the peak of their ability and to jeopardise this by smoking is exceedingly foolish to say the least.

Considering the frankly ludicrous sums of money paid to footballers by their clubs, any player caught acting in a way that might compromise their ability to perform at the highest level ought to be severely reprimanded.

A player of Wilshere’s mould is expected to cover huge distances over the course of a match, and in order to do so requires a high level of fitness and stamina, both of which will be negatively affected by smoking. The Premier League is a faster and more competitive league than ever before, and players who are not fit enough simply won’t be able to keep up.

I hope for England’s sake that Wilshere can kick this habit for good.

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