GLASGOW (Reuters) - Harry Kane’s injury-time equaliser did more than earn England another point on the road to next year’s World Cup in Russia, it was also a “huge moment” in the young team’s growth, manager Gareth Southgate said.
Kane’s cool finish at the death earned England a 2-2 draw on Saturday after two superb free kicks from Leigh Griffiths in the final three minutes of normal time had given Scotland a shock 2-1 lead.
”I think it is a huge moment for the team. The questions around us centre on character, centre on the ability to withstand things that go against you and that is what we have to show.
“We have to be a team that are never beaten, maybe the clock runs out but you never, ever stop and today we have done that. There was a real quality finish as well, under pressure, to get the point,” he said.
“Is it what we wanted when we turned up here? No it isn’t but the change of events is remarkable,” he added.
England hardly sparkled against an industrious and spirited Scotland side in the Group F qualifier but Southgate believes they showed they have the right personality to get results in testing environments.
“Of course we can improve in every area of our game but in a game like this, at the end of the season, going into injury time, with people cramping up, absolutely it is about character,” he said.
Southgate was particularly pleased that his players had shown exactly the kind of approach he had demanded from them during their team talks in the week’s build-up.
”Not only did we discuss how we wanted to play but we discussed how we needed to be if events turned against us.
”You can get moments in football, like today, where someone produces unbelievable quality and you find yourself level or behind in a game with the momentum against you and all of the crowd on a huge high. It was important we had those conversations.
“It is fundamental to being a top team but it is only one step in that direction, we can still improve in all areas, we all know that, but nevertheless it is a significant moment I think,” he said.
The England manager said in the bigger picture his challenge was to make his group “the best team in the world” and that required delivering when it really mattered -- in the big tournaments.
”I think it is clear that our record is three knockout wins in 25 years so we now have a young team emerging, a 19- and a 21-year-old in the front line today, they haven’t played many matches like this.
”This team is just starting out –- how far they can go? I think there is great potential, there is a desire on their part, they are showing pride in playing for the shirt but of course we have an enormous journey to go on to match teams who have already won World Cups and European Championships with players who are Champions League winners regularly and used to playing in the highest games.
“We know the size of the challenge and it is one we enjoy taking on,” he said.
Editing by Clare Fallon