Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his emotions in check as he made his return to the England team after an absence of more than three years.
The Sunderland striker marked his comeback with the opening goal in England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania in their World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Saturday.
Jamie Vardy added the other goal after replacing Defoe in the second half to secure the three points and consolidate England’s position at the top of Group F.
“I enjoyed it, it’s been a good week,” said Defoe, who led the team out alongside Bradley Lowery — the terminally ill five-year-old Sunderland fan with whom he has formed such a bond.
“It’s hard to put into words really,” Defoe added on ITV. “I had to keep my emotions [under control], obviously little Brad was with me.
“You can imagine how I felt doing that, it was special. Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling.”
England boss Gareth Southgate was thrilled for Defoe if not entirely satisfied with the team’s overall performance, but admitted their opponent’s tactics were partly to blame for the outcome.
“I’d put my house on [Defoe] scoring at some stage,” said Southgate, who was playing for England when Defoe made his debut in 2004. “He’s had a really positive impact on everyone … he was thrilled to be back involved in the squad.”
Southgate added: “We’d have liked a bit more, but I think really only one team came to win the game and it’s always difficult to break down a packed defence.
“I’m pleased for the two lads who have got the goals, a great story for Jermain and I felt Jamie added something to us.”
Asked about the areas for improvement, Southgate said: “I think today just moving the ball a bit quicker, more runs in behind, and we’ve got individual players who will play better than they did today.
“We kept pushing, it’s not as if we took our foot off the gas.”
Southgate also had words of praise for his young centre-backs John Stones and MIchael Keane, in particular the latter whom he described as “excellent.”
England goalkeeper Joe Hart, the captain for the afternoon, agreed with his manager that the team could have been better and accepted that the game would not live long in the memory.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the goals we wanted,” he said.
“I thought they were a better team than maybe they gave themselves credit for. We’d have loved to score five or six, but we didn’t.”
Asked if he had a taste for the armband now, a diplomatic Hart said: “Wayne Rooney’s our captain. It was a proud moment to captain your country, but I know my place in the team.”