England U21s 6 Scotland U21s 0: England youngsters show Hodgson glimpse of future at Lane

England began rebuilding for the future at one of the most historic grounds in the country last night.

England Connor Wickham (second left) celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game during the International Friendly match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire).

After a torrid summer in which three representative teams failed in tournaments, the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations were in danger of falling a little flat.

But in the first competitive fixture of a season the governing body, and the nation, hopes will end with a World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium in July, the Under-21s produced a performance of real promise.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The final feeder team to the senior select had been as guilty as any of an under-par showing as they exited the European Championships in the summer without a win.

But last night at Bramall Lane, the oldest ground in the Football League still in use today, they gave cause for hope that there are better days ahead for the national team. Granted, Scotland were awful and a shadow of the teams that in the past have headed south of the border to attack their oppressors with great heart.

But chances to revel in an England performance of such conviction are rare, so why not allow ourselves to do so just this once.

England were full value for their 6-0 win on a mild summers’ evening in Sheffield, in front of a crowd of 26,942, dominated by children and families.

Jonjo Shelvey led the way for England in an attacking formation that brought the best out of the rampaging Raheem Sterling and Nathan Redmond on the flanks, and Connor Wickham up front.

Will Hughes and substitute Ross Barkley were equally destructive, combining neat touches with moments of real incisiveness.

At times the white shirts resembled the great German Under-21s team of not so long ago, of Sami Khedira and Mezut Ozil, who tore England apart in the European Championship final of 2009.

As ever with England there has to be a degree of pragmatism applied, particularly given how completely overwhelmed the Scots were. But as Roy Hodgson watched on in his one game in caretaker charge, he will have found it difficult not to allow a small ripple of excitement to course through his veins at the prospect of one day fielding these players in his senior side.

Ex-Barnsley defender John Stones started at right-back while the biggest cheer as the teams were called out was reserved for George Long, the Sheffield United goalkeeper, who only forced his way into the Under-20s squad earlier this summer. He did not get on. York City’s loan goalkeeper Christopher Kettings was an unused sub for Scotland.

England hinted at their mood after only three minutes when Shelvey picked out Redmond with a flighted ball over the top of the Scotland defence. Redmond controlled the ball on his chest and fired it past Jordan Archer.

England’s second goal arrived eight minutes before the break when Redmond found Sterling, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot.

Wickham trebled the lead when he beat Archer with a quick-thinking lob after the goalkeeper made a hash of a clearance.

By this stage, Barkley had entered the fray, swelling the ranks of Yorkshire connections after loan spells at Leeds and Wednesday last season.

He scored the fourth, feeding off Wickham’s through ball and sliding it beyond Archer.

Shelvey made it three in six minutes with a sublime curling effort that looped over Archer.

Hodgson showed mercy by removing Shelvey and Wickham, but his attacking players were enjoying playing with such freedom that they continued to humiliate Scotland.

Within minutes, substitute Tom Carroll slotted home Redmond’s cut back after the winger danced his way past weak tackles.

With this performance they have put the nightmare of the summer behind them, and left fans that poured into the balmy Yorkshire night dreaming of a brighter future.

England: Butland, Stones, Robinson, Wisdom (Thorpe 72), Keane; Chalobah (Barkley 44), Sterling (Ameobi 65), Hughes (Dier 72), Redmond (Lingaard 65), Shelvey (Carroll 58), Wickham (Kane 58). Unused substitutes: Johnstone, Long, Bond, Garbutt.

Scotland: Archer, Jack (Duffie 45),McKay, Robertson, McHattie, Fyvie, McGeouch, Bannigan (MacLeod 79), Feruz (May 62), Armstrong (Smith 62), Watt (Holt 72). Unused substitutes: Kettings, Hamilton, Findlay, Walker.

Referee: D Makkelie (Ned).