Gareth Southgate is loving life in the England dugout after strengthening his case to take on the post of manager on a full-time basis with a 3-0 win over Scotland at Wembley.
England sit top of Group F in World Cup 2018 qualifying after Daniel Sturridge’s well-taken opener quelled early nerves and further headers after the break from Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill turned the closing stages into a procession.
Three unbeaten games without a goal conceded – albeit against modest opposition – mark a satisfactory return for Southgate, who has shown a steady hand after Sam Allardyce’s dramatic downfall.
But when asked at a post-match news conference whether he had done enough to seal the deal with the Football Association, the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender said: “That’s not my decision. I was given the task of picking the job up in a very difficult situation for everybody.
“I’ve enjoyed working with them. We have a difficult challenge against Spain on Tuesday, a great test for us, and the rest is out of my hands.
“I’ve loved it, I’ve really enjoyed the role and the responsibility, the challenge of every part of it.
“I get that that’s not quite as enjoyable if you don’t get the results. There are nights where you have to get over the line and get the result, but it’s been a brilliant experience.
“I’ve taken so much from that. But as a group of staff we’ve prepared the team really well and created a good environment. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed it too.”
England started the game at a pedestrian pace and lacked invention against limited and well organised opponents, giving home fans something of an uncomfortable reminder of their Euro 2016 nightmare.
But Lallana’s response to Scotland duo James Forrest and Robert Snodgrass missing presentable openings early in the second half gave England some control, while their late dominance of possession drew ‘oles’ from the Wembley crowd.
“It was important for the players to come through that pressure environment and win,” Southgate explained.
“They wanted to respond in the right way to what they’ve been through in the last few months, and today was a step forward in their belief for what they’re capable of.”