Amid the hype that surrounded Jack Wilshere's full England debut against Denmark, it was all too easy to overlook the contribution of the man who replaced him at half-time, West Ham United's Scott Parker, who returned to the team after four and a half years in the international wilderness.
Parker took over midfield duties from Wilshere with assurance and tenacity, and staked a claim, albeit probably an outside one, for inclusion in the squad for next month's Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales.
It was his first cap since the 2-0 defeat to Croatia in October 2006 under Steve McClaren, which is best remembered for goalkeeper Paul Robinson's air kick attempting to clear Gary Neville's back pass, which led to Croatia's second goal.
Parker was relieved finally to be able to lay that particular ghost to rest with his display in Copenhagen, and show that his game has improved since his last cap. At the age of 30 and having missed out narrowly on inclusion to the World Cup squad last summer, Parker was in danger of seeing international football pass him by. Yet he believes he is a better footballer now than he was as a teenager, when he – like Wilshere – was rated one of the best young players around.
Parker said: "For the last three years, I've been playing the best football that I've played in a long while. I think experience is vital for that. You become wiser, you know where to be, what positions to take up, how to play it. I'm in a position where if I get a chance I have to take it. It's plain and simple. That's the way it is for me and I got a chance for 45 minutes and I realised I needed to grab it with both hands."
Parker has won each of his four caps at a different club – Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Newcastle United and West Ham United – and is motivated to ensure that does not become the sum total of his international career. He said: "I want to be remembered for more than a quiz question, of course I do. I want to try and progress from now."
Parker, 30, and Darren Bent, 27, were two of the positives that Fabio Capello was able to take from Wednesday's friendly, but neither could be said to be the injection of fresh blood we were promised after the World Cup.
Fabio Capello's stated intention in the aftermath of seeing his tired, old team lose 4-1 to Germany's exuberant young side was to rejuvenate his side. Seven months on, and he believes only Wilshere and the injured Andy Carroll are ready to be part of the senior squad. England remain an old side. If they qualify for the finals of Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland, as seems likely, then they will be a team comprised of players well into their thirties.
In defence, the England captain Rio Ferdinand will be 33. Ashley Cole will be 31, as will John Terry. In midfield Steven Gerrard will be 32, Gareth Barry will be 30, Parker will be 31 and Frank Lampard celebrates his 33rd birthday that summer. Up front, Peter Crouch will be 31, Jermain Defoe 29.
The most pressing need now for Capello is to find a way to bring young players into the side. That will only make it harder for the likes of Parker and Bent to make their presence felt, despite their timely reminders of their talents on Wednesday night.Reuse content