Gareth Southgate has called on England supporters to back his young team after they secured World Cup qualification.
Harry Kane’s late winner earned a 1-0 victory for England over Slovenia at Wembley, which booked their place at next year’s tournament in Russia.
Southgate acknowledged he knows “exactly where they must improve” after an uninspiring performance, but the England boss believes his team will get better as the competition approaches.
“As a young team, what they are having to deal with in terms of expectation and criticism of their performances, it is tough for them,” Southgate said. “They are young players we have to try to get behind.
“They are giving absolutely everything they have got. They don’t have Champions League-winning medals throughout this group, they don’t have Premier League-winning medals. They are a work in progress.
“But they will give everything they’ve got for the shirt and they are going to improve over the next few years. They are suffering a little bit from the consequence of the last 25 or 30 years. That isn’t their fault so we have to give them the belief and the backing to achieve.”
Boos were audible before captain Kane struck in the 94th minute and Southgate conceded England lacked fluency in attack at times.
But he praised Slovenia for making it difficult, adding: “We have a responsibility to create chances and to get the crowd excited so we can’t expect they make it a cauldron without us doing that.
“I also have to credit our opponents because they made it difficult. We have to show the resilience that whatever the atmosphere and whatever the feeling, our job is to get the result.
“In the end, for English football, it is crucial to be at a World Cup. It’s probably quite critical for the economy as well!
“I’m not going to hide and say we are exactly where we want to be but we have had six wins and two draws in my time in charge.
“We have one of the best defensive records in Europe in qualifying and we have players we think can score goals and we know exactly where we can improve.
“Was it the performance we wanted and the night we wanted? No, absolutely not. But when I was given the job to keep things steady a year ago the objective was to qualify for Russia.”
England concludes their Group F campaign away to Lithuania on Sunday but Southgate does not plan to release players despite having clinched qualification.
“It is important we stay together as a squad,” he continued. “We will not be releasing players. Maybe at some point tonight we might enjoy the fact we are at a World Cup.
“There will be England fans traveling to Lithuania and we owe it to them to put in a performance.”