Gareth Southgate said he was ‘encouraged’ by the performance from his young England side against Germany, with debutant Ruben Loftus-Cheek coming in for particular praise.
The manager handed five players their first senior caps during the 0-0 draw at Wembley, with Jordan Pickford, Tammy Abraham and Loftus-Cheek starting the game.
Despite the makeshift look of the England team – who had been hit by injuries prior to the game – Southgate said he was pleased with his side and singled out the Crystal Palace midfielder for his man-of-the-match turn.
“I’m really not surprised by what [the young players] have done because they’ve shown that previously in other ages and this week in training. There has been an energy about the group,” he said.
“It seemed as if there has been loads of pull-outs but actually, it’s been really tight and without getting too carried away, I thought the performance was a really encouraging one.
“Loftus-Cheek is a player I’ve watched do that since U16 level, and despite his size and appearance and the way he plays, he’s not hugely confident at times. I think tonight, it took him 10 minutes to have a look around and realise, ‘I can do this’.
“He’s got so many good attributes and that’s why we put him into the team. I don’t think the wider public will be as aware of him, you would have to have followed him very closely, but we believe in him and the others we played.
“It was a brilliant experience for our players and we’ve now got to see if we can try and replicate that against a side who rested a lot of their players today on Tuesday. For me, it was a real positive tonight.”
The first half provided an entertaining encounter with a number of chances from both sides, although the second was a more muted affair, and despite pointing out they still have work to do, Southgate hopes the fans enjoyed the new-look team.
“It was a proper game tonight with top players that you’re playing against, so you’ve got to be switched on. They are a team that will come at you so I think for the crowd, it is a better spectacle,” he added.
“With the qualifying matches, it’s a case of when you can score and how many you can score and we haven’t been able to crack that nut quickly enough in games. Germany were mostly a goal ahead after 10 mins in their qualifiers and that’s where they are ahead of us in their evolution as a team.
“In the games where we have had to play against the top teams, the atmosphere has been good. Tactically, the players have performed well. There are still loads of things we can get better at the more we play that system.
“The whole thing was better for the fans and they will have been encouraged by seeing players they haven’t seen before. I think there was a freshness and energy about it.”