Nearing the end of his four-game audition and having swept away the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Wembley, Gareth Southgate is seemingly poised to leave questions about his suitability to be England manager in his wake and claim the job permanently.
A trio of headers from Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill secured a 3-0 victory that kept England top of their World Cup qualifying group and added an air of inevitability to Southgate being promoted from his interim role.
The buildup to Friday’s Group F encounter was filled with reports that the Football Association were already minded to hand him the job, barring an embarrassing defeat in the latest installment of the oldest rivalry in international football.
Yet with that hurdle safely overcome and his rivals for the position having all seemingly dropped by the wayside, the route is now clear for the former Middlesbrough and England under-21 boss to be installed.
“I have loved it and enjoyed the role and responsibility, the challenge of every part of it,” Southgate, who was initially appointed for four games, told reporters following Friday’s victory.
Southgate’s elevation to odds-on favourite for the role is remarkable given he was not in the running when Sam Allardyce was appointed in July for his short-lived reign.
While his coronation is unlikely to generate much excitement among fans — he has only ever managed one club, Middlesbrough, who sacked him after three years following relegation — his stock at the FA is high.
He has become part of the furniture at English football’s governing body, having successfully led the under 21s and now steered the senior team through a period of turmoil in the wake of Allardyce’s departure after 67 days following a newspaper sting.
With rivals for the role seemingly thin on the ground, Southgate will feel justified in assuming he has done enough to see off the threat posed by Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini and Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce, who have all been touted as possible alternatives.
Critics will say he has faced no serious test in his three matches to date, but Southgate has steered a listing ship through choppy waters and is now warming to the task.
“I get that it isn’t as enjoyable if you don’t win but it’s been a brilliant experience and I have taken so much from it, we have created a good environment,” he said.