England were supposed to have learned from their mistakes in taking unfit footballers to major tournaments.
However, after his first full 90 minutes in 11 months, Jack Wilshere is confident he will be ready for the European Championship and relieved that, unlike Arsene Wenger, Roy Hodgson will play him in his favoured position.
Last year, Wilshere grew increasingly frustrated with being played out on the flanks by Arsenal and during the club’s pre-season tour of Singapore he said he would raise the issue with his manager. However, a broken fibula sustained in training shortly after the club’s return meant the issue became academic.
The 24-year-old was employed centrally by England in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Turkey, his first game since he scored twice against Slovenia in June. Afterwards, Wilshere claimed he would be fully fit for England’s opening Euro 2016 fixture, against Russia.
“That is the aim and I wouldn’t say I am far off it,” he said. “I have had games for Arsenal’s Under-21s and I know it is nowhere near this level but you can still test yourself.
“You can train as much as you want but you can’t get that fitness unless you play games. We have two more games before it starts and, hopefully, I will be 100 per cent.”
Wilshere said he wanted to play against both Australia on Friday and against Portugal at Wembley – but in the centre of midfield. “With Arsenal I have been playing out wide which is not me,” he said. “I am not a wide man but Roy seems to have faith in me in the middle so I am happy with that.
England 2 Turkey 1 player ratings
Joe Hart: 7 out of 10
Now the only English keeper to let in a goal against Turkey. Perhaps too quick to run off his line for Calhanoglu leveller but was left short by his defence. A couple of nervy moments but made great late save from Sahan to preserve the win.
Kyle Walker: 7 out of 10
Athletic Tottenham man made a crucial block from Tosun in front of his own goal in the first half and also provided a useful attacking outlet. Speed helped him affect the game at both ends but caught needlessly offside when well placed late on.
Danny Rose: 6 out of 10
A touch haphazard and over-zealous in the tackle, and erred when letting Volkan Sen in behind to set up the Turkey goal. Takes risks inside his own box but keen to get forward when chance arises. Puts himself about and wins as many free-kicks as he concedes.
Gary Cahill: 6 out of 10
Towering header led to Vardy goal but positionally suspect at the back alongside an unfamiliar partner. Likely to be one of England’s chosen two central defenders but is not the player he was two to three seasons ago.
John Stones: 6 out of 10
Poorly positioned for goal, his header clear not strong enough and was then unable to recover position. Got forward a couple of occasions and offers an alternative on the ball in attack but confidence has been affected from a damaging season with Everton.
Eric Dier: 8 out of 10
Comfortable in possession and strong in the tackle, mopping up loose balls in front of an unconvincing backline. Sparked attacks with his passing from deep and sent header wrong side of post from a Wilshere corner.
Jack Wilshere: 7 out of 10
Started quietly on first international appearance in 11 months but clever on the ball and cut inside to force Babacan into a near post save. A major positive for one of Hodgson’s favourites. Caught late in one challenge by Erkin that will have worried the England coach
Raheem Sterling: 6 out of 10
Couple of inventive runs on his home ground but does not produce often enough at the end. Confidence is just not there and his place remains under threat from man of the moment Rashford. Did begin the move that led to Kane’s opener. Chopped down by Ozyakup.
Dele Alli: 6 out of 10
Wonderfully quick feet set up opener but short fuse remains a concern – gets involved in needless confrontations and niggles with opponents. A lot of England’s play seems to flow through him and that effortless way he glides around the pitch. Had shot deflected through to Babacan early in second half.
Jamie Vardy: 7 out of 10
Just failed to reach Kane through-ball in opening minute but they linked up well throughout and remained alert to smash in from close range at the end for this third goal in as many internationals. Made most of Topal contact to win spot-kick and did better when moved across to become the Fox in the box.
Harry Kane: 8 out of 10
Composed finish in opening minutes for opener, although was clearly offside. Has assumed dead-ball duties, but that remains a work in progress – missing from the spot after a fortunate award. Showed leadership and authority and almost set up Vardy in opening minute. A certain starter against Russia.
“I like to play anywhere in the middle. I played the holding role before and I really enjoyed that and, here, I was a bit higher up the pitch and I enjoyed that too.”
From Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking sitting out most of the 1982 World Cup to the metatarsals of Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, England have seldom prospered when taking gambles on half-fit footballers.
However, Wilshere’s play was so impressive in qualification – he was man of the match in the majority of England’s games – that Hodgson told him that he would be in the squad for France if he proved his fitness.
“I’ve worked with Roy and his staff for a number of years and they know what I bring and I know what they want from me,” he said. “We had to rebuild after the World Cup and I was quite a big part of that. I have repaid some of his faith in me and I’m thankful for that.”
There were some days in that long, barren season away from the Emirates Stadium when Wilshere confessed he did not believe he would make it. “You always have those days in the gym when you think you are not going to get back,” he said. “But the thing that kept me going was that I knew what it takes to get back and I had time on my side.
“I spoke quite a lot to Roy and his staff. I knew what he wanted from me and he made it clear. That helped me. He wasn’t giving me any deadlines; he just wanted to keep track of me.
“I am very excited. We have only been together for four days – the whole squad isn’t even together yet. It was a tough game against Turkey. We are happy about the result but we know we can do better.”