Sam Wallace: The flag-bearer of a new generation whose time is rapidly approaching

Wilshere is better technically than Makélelé. When he receives the ball he is more dangerous

there have been a few occasions when the clamour for Fabio Capello to overhaul the England squad in favour of the nation's emergent young players has been insistent, but never before has the Italian been inclined to put the next generation at centre stage – until this week.

When Capello signalled his intention to build his midfield, and potentially his whole team around the talents of Jack Wilshere, he did not only promote the 19-year-old to being the country's midfield general-in-waiting. Rather, Capello suggested that at last the door was open for the generation of players approximately 10 years younger than the one still referred to as "golden".

Behind Wilshere is a queue of young England players waiting for their chance – Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Kieran Gibbs, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck among them. None of them has established themselves in the first XI of a Premier League side in the manner of Wilshere but by the Euro 2012 tournament next year – provided England qualify – that might well have changed.

There were more names mentioned by the England manager this week, too. Martin Kelly, the Liverpool right-back, and Tottenham's Kyle Walker, currently on loan at Aston Villa, who plays in the same position, are also up for consideration. If even the innately conservative Capello thinks that it is time to turn the page perhaps the England team is approaching a watershed moment over the next 12 months.

It will not happen overnight, and it certainly will not all change when England play Denmark in 12 days' time but there is a good chance that come Euro 2012, if England are at the tournament, the squad could be considerably different to that which has contested the last two World Cup finals. In doing so, Capello will be leaving his successor a very changed England team for the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.

As for Wilshere, he will be expected to be the flag-bearer for the new generation, which is quite a responsibility for one who is not out of his teens until next year. He does not have an unblemished record off the pitch – two arrests, the most recent for being part of a group that allegedly threatened a taxi driver – which suggests there is some learning to do. Capello is prepared to cut him some slack.

"I read something that he had some problem with a taxi driver. Silly things. Not a lot of problems," Capello said. "The private life is private life [sic]. It is not my problem. Young players have to understand that young people are an example. This is important. But private life [I] can do nothing."

As for Wilshere's red-card tackle on the Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic in October, there was something in it that reminded Capello of his younger self trying to get on in the game. "Some times you can make mistakes. I did the same sometimes as a player. It's the red mist. Wilshere is better technically than [Claude] Makélelé. He's slower than Makélelé. Makélelé was faster. When he receives the ball he is more dangerous than Makélelé."

Wilshere will probably bridle at the comparison with Makélelé, whose name – despite his success at Chelsea – conjures up connotations of defensive hard work rather than the game's more glamorous aspects. Anyone who saw Wilshere's ball to Nicklas Bendtner for Arsenal's first goal against Ipswich on Tuesday night knew that was not the kind of pass Makélelé made often.

For Adam Johnson, who has struggled to impress his manager, Roberto Mancini, at times this season there was also a nudge that he would have to understand his elevation to Manchester City brought with it different responsibilities. "He's a young player who changes the team," Capello said. "When they play for an important team, they have to understand that private life has to be different. You have to win every game, not just play every game. That's a big difference.

"Johnson is a good player. The last game I saw him in [against Aston Villa] I saw what he could do. When he played he made a difference. I am lucky to have the chance to choose him on the right. He can play left.

"Welbeck is another interesting player. Him and Carroll are two young players we monitored but both are injured. They are really interesting. Henderson too. Gibbs will be the same. I am happy they are playing a lot of games."

On Walker, Capello said that he had seen the 20-year-old play for the Under-21s against Uzbekistan. "Across the box he was really, really dangerous. Very fast. But he has to improve with his defending. He's a really good player. He's fast and technically very good." Kelly, Capello said, was one "for the future".

There is still a core of players comprising Joe Hart, Theo Walcott, James Milner and, of course, Wayne Rooney, whose ages range from 21 to 25 and who have already established themselves as internationals, who will be part of the squad for a while yet. Ashley Young, Tom Huddlestone, Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon fall into the category, albeit with less of a claim thus far to a starting place.

Capello was also convinced that his captain, Rio Ferdinand, is back to full fitness and form. "I saw him at Tottenham. I said, 'You're back'. His control on the ball. Forward passing."

And he still refused to rule out a return for David Beckham. "Every time I choose the players for that moment. Not for sympathy or antipathy. I choose the best players." Otherwise it was a fairly radical manifesto, starting with Wilshere's first shot at pulling the strings next month.

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

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

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back