KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Gareth Southgate finally set aside his customary worried frown in front of the media as he enjoyed the relief and satisfaction of England’s 3-0 victory over ‘auld enemy’ Scotland in the World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Victory kept England top of Group F and moved Southgate, initially a reluctant leader, into pole position to land the permanent appointment as national manager.
The Football Association launches the formal consideration process next week for a successor to short-lived Sam Allardyce but Southgate almost certainly needs to avoid any serious slip-ups by England in Tuesday’s friendly against Spain to state his case as best man available for the job.
England endured some shaky moments in defence before defeating the valiant Scots with goals from Daniel Sturridge in the first half then Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill in the second.
Southgate said: “It was important for the players to come through such a pressure environment and enjoy their football and win. There were some moments where we weren’t as controlled and had to dig in.
“Some of our play with the ball was exciting but some of our build-up play was sloppy and we gave up more opportunities than we should have. There’s lots to improve on but lots to build on.
“This was a real step forward. The players have shown elements of what they are capable of individually and colectively. They displayed lots of the things we worked on during the week and we were pretty ruthless in front of goal.”
As for the winning sensation in charge of the seniors, under-21s boss Southgate said: “I’ve enjoyed the role and responsibility and the challenge of every part of it. It’s been a brilliant experience.”
Not so happy was opposite number Gordon Strachan though Scotland’s manager insisted he was proud of his players who gave everything possible against a better team.
Strachan, whose own future is under scrutiny, said: “The players put in so much work and were brave, tried to meet England up the pitch and let them have one chance in the first half.
“At half-time we believed that if we stuck with the game plan then we’d get there. Then we had two chances and didn’t capitalise and England go and hit the target twice.
“I feel proud of the way our players played. They can go away and their families and supporters can be proud of what they did. I couldn’t ask any more of what they’ve got in the locker. I’m proud of them for what they tried to do.
“We might not be the best in the world but that game was cruel to them tonight.”