Thursday's 1-0 victory at an under-capacity Wembley, thanks to a last-gasp Harry Kane goal, sealed their place in the Finals as group winners, but the laboured manner of the win drew harsh criticism.
Yet a year into the senior job - and having spent a long time working in youth development -there is hope. Best player we've got. "I've managed to shoulder that for 20 years", he said. "As a player, I think I've always been moving in the right direction".
"We have qualified for a World Cup with one game to go. I think a World Cup in Russian Federation, from what I saw in the Confederations Cup, will be a really good tournament". A win against Austria on the road would send them to the 2018 World Cup. "It really is tough".
"When you've got someone scoring goals it helps and hopefully I can continue that from now until then, we'll see what happens".
"They are giving absolutely everything they have got".
"Tonight highlighted where we are", said Southgate.More news: Sessions' DOJ reverses transgender workplace protections
"It's awesome to get there".
"I am able to rationalise it all, I understand it completely".
Southgate is looking to build that winning feeling against Lithuania, the final competitive match before the World Cup finals, albeit the qualifier is a dead rubber.
"Are we are going to become Spain in the next eight months?" Three points against Slovakia on Thursday could make it an easier task for Strachan's men but it's an enduring task nevertheless if Scotland want even a distant opportunity to make their first major tournament appearance since the 1998 World Cup in France. No we're not. They have a squad full of players who have won Champions Leagues and league titles.
England did not suffer any injuries against Slovenia but Southgate is expected to make changes with qualification already secured.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola memorably labelled Tottenham "that Harry Kane team" last weekend after the striker scored twice against Huddersfield for his club.
"We're all after the same shirt but we're keen to push each other to a high standard because that means success for us as a nation", he said. Both teams can still qualify from that group, as can Turkey and Iceland who are playing each other.