Gareth Southgate has reiterated that a decision over the permanent England manager's job is "out of his hands". The U21 coach, who was promoted to the senior job for an initial four-game stint in September following the shock exit of Sam Allardyce, all but cemented his position in the eyes of many after guiding the Three Lions to a 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Scotland at Wembley on Friday (11 November).
"That's not my decision," Southgate told reporters in his post-match press conference when asked if it was now unthinkable that he would not be given the role on a full-time basis. "What I'm really pleased [about] is that I was given the task of picking the job up in a very difficult situation for everybody and I feel that we've prepared the team really well. I've enjoyed that, I've enjoyed working with them. We've now got a different challenge to prepare for in Spain, which will be a great test for us. The rest is out of my hands."
Ensuring a positive result in a clash between the 'auld rivals' was generally seen as crucial to Southgate's hopes of landing the job after his first game in charge, a straightforward 2-0 win over Malta, was followed by a torrid goalless draw in Slovenia.
England achieved that aim despite not turning in a particularly vintage performance and it is clear that the former Middlesbrough boss has thrived upon the challenges associated with such a high-profile position, even if he still is not explicit with his desire to become the full-time manager.
"I've loved it" he added. "I've really enjoyed the role, I've enjoyed the responsibility. I've enjoyed the challenge of every part of it. I get that that's not quite so enjoyable if you don't get results...But it's been a brilliant experience. I've taken so much from the experience. But I also think there's a group of staff, it's not just about me. There's a group of staff that have prepared the team really well. We've created a good environment and hopefully they've enjoyed what they've been doing."
England were frequently sloppy in possession against struggling Scotland, but still ran out comfortable winners courtesy of a trio of headers from Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill. Although acknowledging that improvement is obviously still needed in certain areas, Southgate feels that such a positive result will act as a real confidence boost for a group of players widely lambasted in the aftermath of their ugly exit from Euro 2016.
"I know how much it meant to our supporters to win the game. It was made clear to me everywhere I went over the last three or four weeks. I'm delighted to be able to deliver that result for everybody. I know what it means to the country. It's also really important for the players to come through that pressured environment and win. They've wanted to respond in the right way to what they've been through in the last few months and today was a real step forward in their belief in what they're capable of."
England return to Wembley on Tuesday night (15 November) for the final fixture of Southgate's caretaker tenure, a friendly match against Spain. And while Julien Lopetegui's side will be missing a host of regular stars including the likes of Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba and Diego Costa, Southgate is expecting the 2010 World Cup winners to provide a stern test.
"It's one of the biggest challenges you can face," he said. "It looks as though they'll have a couple of players missing but they have strength in depth and a clear identity of how they play through all of their age groups. Obviously Julien has been the U21 manager so he knows how the system is there. He's worked with so many of the players and the style, so it's going to be a huge test for us. But that's a good challenge, a different type of challenge for us to prepare for."