Having arrived at the European Championship on a run of nine successive wins without conceding, the tournament was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for the Young Lions.
The Under-21s lost all three of their group matches as they crashed out at the first hurdle - a performance that cost Stuart Pearce his job and led to serious questions into the state of English football.
Matters were only compounded further by the Under-20s' failure to win a match at their World Cup, but Southgate does not believe English football is in as bad a state as it might appear.
Appointed as Pearce's successor last month, the former international defender is in positive mood heading into his first match at the Under-21s helm, Thursday's Euro 2015 qualifier at home to Moldova.
"I will be proud, no question but it is more important to me that these fellas go and show people what they are capable of doing," Southgate said.
"I think there is a lot being said about young English players over the last few years and I think we've got a group of players that can alter that opinion.
"Over the period of the next two years, I think they have an opportunity to show that.
"It might not all happen immediately on Thursday night but I am excited by what I have seen."
While strength and depth may not be a problem in Southgate's eyes, something that hampered Pearce in Israel was the availability of key eligible players.
Senior friendlies were deemed more important than the Under-21 Championship, meaning the squad was without the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck.
Now senior commitments have denied the Young Lions of the services of Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Southgate has no issues with such absentees.
"I think it is a brilliant opportunity for them," he said at the Football Association's St George's Park base.
"One of the beauties of training here is we had probably six or seven of the lads train with the first-team yesterday, which you couldn't do if we were staying somewhere else.
"Roy [Hodgson] and myself have spoken very carefully about all of this and I think it is positive for them to go.
"The most important thing for everybody in the country over the next two months is for England to qualify for the World Cup.
"If that means these lads are benefiting from being with the senior squad, if they get the opportunity to play or travel and train with them, then that is the most important thing.
"If at some point in the future they are back with our group working and playing then we'll be delighted to have them.
"Again, our job is try and get them back in the seniors.
"We have said to all the players in out squad this week, it is not just about winning matches, it about the way we want to play.
"We are also part of their development and, while the clubs do the majority of that, we want this experience to be one that is enjoyable, but also leaving them feeling they've learned something. We are preparing for them to go into the first-team."
Senior boss Hodgson will be in Reading on Thursday to watch the Under-21s against Moldova, just weeks after he himself led them to a 6-0 friendly win over Scotland.
Two of the goalscorers from that night, Jonjo Shelvey and Connor Wickham, will miss the Madejski Stadium clash through injury, although the latter may be fit for next week's trip to Finland.
James Ward-Prowse and Zeki Fryers could be handed their England Under-21s debut against Moldova, while Andre Wisdom will continue as captain.
"I think he did the job very, very well last month with Roy," Southgate said of the Liverpool defender.
"Everybody I have spoken to, from Stuart in the summer to Roy, have held him up as an outstanding character and I didn't see any reason all to change that decision.
"I am looking forward to seeing him lead the team out."