Interim manager Gareth Southgate's fingerprints were all over a courageous England performance against Spain

 
Trevor Steven
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England v Spain - International Friendly
Southgate is set to be handed the job on a full-time basis (Source: Getty)

It may not have been Spain at their strongest but England fans will have been encouraged by their team’s display in that 2-2 draw and manager Gareth Southgate was entitled to call it a special performance.

The hosts were great until the later stages and, particularly in the first half, which tends to be tighter and more competitive, I thought they were excellent.

Without the ball they were very well disciplined and hunted in packs effectively. It was pressing with intent and it looked to have been clearly thought through.

Read more: England v Spain player ratings: How the Three Lions fared

Equally, when England had the ball some of the play was outstanding. It was driven by the movement of the front four: Jamie Vardy, Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana.

Time and time again they popped in dangerous positions and showed good touch and penetrative passing to hurt Spain. The way they stayed connected with each other while still moving was also impressive and disrupted their opponents defensive situations.

England’s intent was plain to see. They forced the game to be played at a high tempo and there seemed to have been a clear message from interim boss Southgate to his players to be courageous.

He gave them the confidence to show what they could do on the ball and also an understanding of how to win it back.

You can always do better and it was disappointing not to win but that performance was something for England to build on and the reality is that Southgate has set the bar pretty high.

Question marks

It has cemented him as the man to be appointed on a full-time basis and means that he and England can head into the four-month break from international football in positive mood.

He had to make sure England beat Scotland in last week’s World Cup qualifier and he did. This performance against Spain, though, was another step up.

Of course they are not guaranteed to play like that in every match but now they know that they can.

One of the question marks over the former Middlesbrough manager when he was first handed the reins following the departure of Sam Allardyce was whether he had the temperament for the job.

Would he be able to handle the players? And the media?

I think he has proved to everyone that he can and that there is nobody else for the Football Association to consider.

As he brings his four-game audition to a close, he will reflect that it could not really have gone much better.

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