Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier praised interim England manager Gareth Southgate for having a clear vision at the end of a year in which muddled tactical thinking left the national team at a low ebb.
Late goals from Iago Aspas and Isco ruined a largely impressive display from the hosts on Tuesday as Spain left Wembley with a 2-2 draw.
The friendly concluded Southgate’s four-match audition to become Sam Allardyce’s long-term successor on the back of seven points from three competitive matches that leave the Three Lions at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.
Dier was one of the few England players to emerge with credit from their Euro 2016 debacle, Roy Hodgson having shuffled systems and personnel to no great effect, culminating in a last-16 collapse against Iceland completely devoid of any cohesion.
Having replaced Hodgson, Allardyce’s tenure was short-lived after he was brought down by a newspaper sting, leaving Southgate with an opportunity to make his mark on the side.
Dier believes his former England Under-21 boss has done just that and was encouraged by the boldness of sticking to a plan of building from deep and pressing Spain high up the field – customarily the calling cards of the visitors, who were instead on the back foot for large parts of the contest.
“That’s the most important thing – I don’t care what the result is, I want us to have a style of play and a way of playing that we stick to,” said the 22-year-old, who was embroiled in a late flashpoint when he accused Spain debutant Ander Herrera of elbowing him.
“Win, lose or draw I’ll be happy, as long as we stick to a way of playing and believe in it 100 per cent.
“I think that’s what we’ve been doing over these four games now and you could see it [against Spain] better than in the other three. We got our rewards up until the end.
“Sam was good as well, he had a way of playing and he stuck to it and believed in it 100 per cent.
“Gareth is the same way. I think at times you can be half-hearted – you play out and then you lose the ball playing out so you want to go long; you go long and why didn’t you play out?
“You either do it or you don’t, for me. I think we’ve been getting better at that.”
On Southgate’s long-term job prospects, Dier added: “I think what he’s done over the four games is obvious. What happens is not up to us so it doesn’t make a difference what I say really.”
Jamie Vardy, who headed England’s second after winning an early penalty for the impressive Adam Lallana to convert, agreed with Dier.
“That’s not down to the players, it’s down to the FA but he’s definitely not done himself any harm,” he said.
The Leicester City striker ended a barren run of 15 matches without a goal for club and country and enjoyed leading the line in Southgate’s pacey attacking structure, which featured Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Theo Walcott operating behind him after Lallana departed through injury.
“You could see with the way we set up we had a lot of pace and we were trying to win the ball higher up so we could get straight on the attack,” he added.
“We created quite a lot of chances throughout the game and probably could have scored a few more.”