Gareth Southgate praised the efforts of Jack Grealish after the Aston Villa man impressed in England’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium.
Playing from the left of the front three in the Nations League clash, Grealish was the pick of the performers for the Three Lions and the manager cited his difference to the other England forwards and his willingness to take on board instructions as to why he was able to thrive.
“What I saw I knew I would see, which was someone with the bravery to play,” he told Sky Sports.
“He took the ball in tight areas, his technique was good, he took players out of the the game, we knew he would buy a lot of free-kicks, which he did. He was outstanding and he should be delighted with the way he played. He is a different sort of a player, a different sort of a threat.
“I explained to him what we wanted to see when we brought him in in September. It has been helpful for him to bed in to the group, so he knows the way we want to play and the players get an understanding with him.
“Today was a great game for us to see him in and see his level and I couldn’t speak highly enough of his performance.”
Looking further ahead, Southgate now knows his England side cannot win the Nations League group after this defeat – but is adamant that the performance on the night was adventurous enough to suggest it can yield rewards in future.
The manager knows that scrutiny will fall his way after England failed to score again, but wants a positive ending to the campaign in midweek against Iceland.
“I’m not sure we could have been any more creative than we were tonight,” he continued. “We had two attacking wing-backs and three attacking forwards. We showed against Ireland and Wales we could score goals in that system.
“Against the best opposition chances are tight. We will constantly keep reviewing and try to improve, but for me we have had 10 or 11 debutants across this autumn series, we have learned a lot – good and bad – and we have to finish it well against Iceland.”