Bring on Wilshere: reasons to tune in to the friendly nobody wanted

Waste of time?No.It may be fun and Capello might learn something
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The Independent Football

1. Jack Wilshere's debut

It is asking an awful lot of an 18-year-old to lift the gloom that has hung over the England team for so long now, but tonight's friendly against Hungary is a golden opportunity for Arsenal's talented teen to begin the process of building on the promise he has already shown, and start constructing a great playing career. And not just as an international footballer.

Wilshere has been enthusiastically touted as everything from a future replacement for Cesc Fabregas to the man around whom future England teamsheets will be decided ever since he made his first appearance for Arsenal aged just 16, and he is likely to play in the second half tonight, which would make him the 10th youngest senior England international of all time. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Bolton, and certainly made an impresion on their manager, Owen Coyle. "He's brave, tough, mentally strong and destined for greatness. His is a total footballer. He can play wide, he can play in the middle or he can play as a second striker. Everything he does oozes class."

Now he's back at Arsenal, and hoping for his first Premier League start for the club on Saturday, having impressed his manager, Arsène Wenger, both last season and since his return to the Emirates. Wilshere is the beacon of hope that Fabio Capello needs right now. The new heart of a post-Golden generation midfield? The perfect foil for Wayne Rooney? The hype would have us believe so. Tonight, the reality of his England career begins.

2. Capello's new broom

Fabio has promised change, although more evolution than revolution, as the senior players who underperformed in South Africa will start tonight's match. However, the team will definitely have a very different look, as Wilshere will not be the only debutant – Bobby Zamora, Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and Kieran Gibbs are all lined up to make their first appearances.

Joe Hart should also make his first start in goal, after three caps coming from the bench, as Capello reflects the nation's call for change.

There is also a chance the veteran Italian manager will make a tactical switch and select two wingers in Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson, which would certainly strike a positive note, as both were omitted from the World Cup squad.

3. How long will the boos go on?

Capello's decision to send out his World Cup flops to take the flak of the England fans' fury will ensure the supporters have their chance to vent their feelings.

The manager and players expect widespread booing and there is no doubt there will be plenty coming their way. However, once the supporters have got the frustration out of their system, there will have to come a moment when the boos end and the cheers start. The England players of Manchester United and Chelsea were booed by the opposing fans at Wembley throughout Sunday's Community Shield, but it is unlikely such negative partisanship will be on evidence tonight. Or will fans just jeer all night?

4. Fabio and Ashley together again

Capello failed his first big test at the World Cup, and has humbly apologised for England's meek performance. He seemed distant from the players in South Africa, a perception that was not enhanced on Sunday when his outstretched hand seemed to be ignored by Ashley Cole, and he then had an embarrassing exchange with Michael Carrick over whether the midfielder was injured or not.

Capello's passion on the touchline was evident in South Africa; however, his ability to influence events as they unfolded in front of him was less apparent. The Italian's body language will be scrutinised tonight, as will that of his players, who need to put on a positive display of national pride, not one of surly petulance.

5. Gareth Southgate's job interview

Adrian Chiles will be hosting ITV's coverage, and is sure to grill pundit Gareth Southgate over his suitability for the vacant managerial job at Aston Villa, following Martin O'Neill's decision to resign on Monday. Former Middlesbrough manager Southgate has been installed as one of the favourites for the post, so tonight's game will be the perfect opportunity for West Bromwich fan Chiles to put him on the spot about the job.

Another former Villa captain, Andy Townsend, will also be in the Wembley studio so the situation at Villa Park will be very much at the front of everyone's minds.

6. New England, new pitch?

The new Wembley pitch held up surprisingly well during Sunday's Community Shield. It cost at least £250,000 to install the Desso pitch, which uses 20 million artificial fibres to support the natural grass, and the verdict after its first outing at the weekend was very positive.

It is hoped the new turf, the 13th surface to be laid since the new £757m Wembley Stadium opened in 2007, will bed in so well it will not need to be dug up and replaced, as was the case last May when the pitch needed relaying after just a month.

One of the key tests will be how it stands up to the wear and tear of two games in the space of four days.