Southgate will lead out his country against Malta hoping to make headlines for the right reasons after the embarrassing exit of previous boss Sam Allardyce.
A home game against a nation ranked 176th in the world should present a soft introduction, but he was clear that he wanted more than just three points from the game. He has called for his team to be aggressive and gamble, if necessary, in a bid to showcase their skills.
“Above all, I want players to be brave, bring the exciting things they have, the capabilities they have, to the table,” said Southgate.
“One of the messages I’ve wanted to get across to the players this week is I want to see an England team that is brave in possession, willing to take chances, prepared to risk in one-versus-one chances, even though they won’t always succeed.
“They have the freedom to do that while I’m in charge, I’ve been very clear on that with all the young players in the system. I think this is a great opportunity for them to show what English players can do .”
If that sounds like the manifesto of a man who intends to be around longer than the four games he has been assigned, then it should be no surprise. Southgate is bookmakers’ favourite to claim the full-time post and knows first impressions count for a lot.
The former defender confirmed Wayne Rooney would captain the side and be joined in the starting XI by Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. Neither is expected to take the centre forward position vacated by the injured Harry Kane, with Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy vying for that shirt.
Southgate seems set to follow in the footsteps of predecessors Roy Hodgson and Allardyce by using Rooney in a midfield berth he has not always excelled in and no longer plays for Manchester United.
Asked if he could confirm Rooney’s precise role, the former Middlesbrough boss said: “No, I can’t. A good one, hopefully, adding he has the “ability to control games [with] his experience”.
As for Walcott — left out of the Euro 2016 squad but in the middle of a purple patch of four goals in his last four games — Southgate confirmed he would be on duty from the start. Injuries to Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling may have helped his cause, but the 27-year-old is in compelling form on his own merits.
“It’s a good moment for him. He’s in superb form for his club and, as an international manager, your ideal is to have people in the squad who are playing well.”
Southgate is looking light on defenders following the withdrawal of Everton’s Phil Jagielka and a sore throat that ruled Gary Cahill out of training yesterday. The Chelsea defender will be assessed this morning and cover may be summoned ahead of Monday’s flight to Slovenia.
“It’s been a remarkable week injury-wise. Losing Adam Lallana so early in the week, on the back of Harry Kane... then Raheem Sterling, Danny Drinkwater, Nathaniel Clyne. Fortunately I’m used to that from dealing with the under-21s.”