KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Gareth Southgate had only words of praise for his players – and their future potential – after the 2-2 draw with Spain which brought his four-game reign as interim manager to an end.

England led 2-0 on goals from Adam Lallana (penalty) and Jamie Vardy until the 89th minute before Spain were rewarded for a spirited, late revival with goals from Iago Aspas and Isco.

The Football Association had been waiting formally until after the game to consider who to appoint as long-time successor to 61-day Sam Allardyce and Southgate is obviously in pole position to be promoted from his role as under-21 manager.

Southgate said: “The players couldn’t have given any more over the four matches. We wanted to be a front-foot team that pressed high. If we were going to be defeated it was by being positive and brave and at times we did that well.

“That comes at a price because though at times we kept the ball well maybe as the second half went on we weren’t able to keep the ball quite enough because Spain are a top side so in the last 20 minutes we were fatiguing and hanging on a bit.

“But I couldn’t be more proud of what the players have done. We have a long way to go before we can be considered a top team but it was a healthy positive performance even though it felt a bit like a defeat for the players when they came off the pitch.”

Asked about the managership, Southgate said: “I’ve learned a lot about the role and relished the call. I’ve learned that I can prepare a team to play against a top side and give them a tough test.

“I feel that every situation we’ve been through – many complex and potential powder kegs – we’ve coped with very well. More than that we’ve built some important stability for the players and the team.”

Lopetegui encouragement

Southgate had crossed swords several time previously at under-21 level with Julen Lopetegui who took over as Spain manager from Vicente Del Bosque after the quarter-fnal exit at Euro 2016 in France.

Lopetegui had no hesitation in talking up Southgate’s potential to follow his own path upward.

He said: “Gareth Southgate is working very well. You can see he has instilled pace and qualty into his team and good tactical organisation so i wish all the best for him and his England team.”

As for Spain’s performance, the one-time Real Madrid goalkeeper conceded that England had the better of first half but was pleased with the quality and spirit of the manner in which his players gained the draw.

Lopetegui said: “In the first half England were definitely better. They were sharper, creating more space, their plans were working better than ours. The penalty was a good example of how they used the space and caused problems for us.

“We tried to match that intensity but in the first 45 minutes they showed what is good about the Engish game.

“It grew even tougher when it went to 2-0 but then we showed our character and spirit and to pull the game out of the fire in the minutes was great because it showed how we never give up — even in a tough fixture in a difficult venue.”