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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas