James Lawton: Wilshere shrugs off weight of attention to give glimpse of a bright new England

This may not have been the second coming of Fabio Capello but he was certainly no longer a dead football man walking out into the Copenhagen night. Nor were any of his derided, underachieving England squad.

There was a glint of hope for the future, the possibility of a new England seeded by an injection of youth.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere was a centrepiece of the project and he didn't disappoint under the weight of attention. He was a creative force even in a role that carried heavy defensive responsibilities.

Wilshere, match-winner Ashley Young and James Milner were comfortable on the night – and they looked as if they could carry that into the future.

This was uplifting in a match which, we were told, was to be put on like a cheap crumpled old shirt and then tossed away before some more important occasion like a scuffling engagement in the dead zone of the Premier League.

Rage over the betrayal of the league's big promise when it was formed in the most shamelessly, money-grabbing fashion nearly two decades ago, has inevitably dulled over the years but there are still times when it spurts back into life.

Last night was such a time as Capello sought to make something out of the ashes of the World Cup and the recent undressing at Wembley by a new young France.

You remember the promise? It first came in a glossy brochure posted from the FA's old headquarters in Lancaster Gate. It said the top division would soon enough be trimmed down to 18 clubs. This would benefit the national team; it would give the manager more time to work with a generation – perhaps a golden one – of young and fresher English players.

There was no mention that because of the huge new cash flow the top clubs would be able to buy up ready made first-teamers from every corner of Europe and that before long the native talent pool in the new league would be around 33 per cent. That, we should remember, is not a percentage of viable candidates for the England team but the body count; not the finesse count, or the technically adept count, or the natural visionary count. No, not any of that, just a body count.

In these circumstances it is a small miracle that Capello, in the last phase of a job that has surely brought him more angst and frustration than any other in a brilliant coaching career, could still have, if only for 45 minutes last night, the first stint at the international polishing of a diamond young player like Wilshere. Capello withdrew Wilshere at half-time in what was no doubt a gesture towards the Arsenal 19-year-old's upcoming challenges, not least next week's ordeal of fire against Barcelona. It was necessary to see it as a judicious guarding of an asset rather than any lack of faith in a player of sure-fire and deep potential.

Wilshere's difficult role in front of England's back four was not made any easier by the waspish talent of another teenager, Ajax's Christian Eriksen, but Capello's pre-match comparisons with young players of his acquaintance like Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini were never in danger of a breath of ridicule.

As expected, Wilshere most of the time looked as if he had pulled up a chair and made himself at home. His movement forward, the crisp assurance of his passing and the willingness of all his team-mates to entrust him with the ball, were steady points of encouragement on a night that could easily have been made embarrassing by Denmark.

The Danes played with enough verve and menace to remind us that they won a major title – the European Championship of 1992 – 26 years more recently than their opponents – and ransacked Sven Goran Eriksson's team 4-1 five years ago.

There were other sources of English light. Milner reminded us of the force and the competitive sharpness which made him seem like a potential cornerstone of the team before the World Cup meltdown and Glen Johnson, after some familiarly shaky moments in defence, grew much stronger going forward and brilliantly assisted Young's admirable goal.

That confirmed the strength of England's response to Denmark's powerful opening onslaught crowned with a fine headed goal by Daniel Agger from a cross by the quick and poised Eriksen. Theo Walcott had presented Darren Bent with the equaliser and when Gareth Barry and Scott Parker came on there was a much stronger sense that, if Capello's resources are thin by the standards of most of the front-rank football nations, they were maybe not quite as threadbare as had been feared.

This was a night deemed irrelevant by the ruling culture of English football. It was, however, rather more warming than that. Indeed, it had enough to make you hope that news of the death of the England team may just have been a little premature.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
i100
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?