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Friday, October 1, 2021

Chelsea star close to breaking into England squad as stock rises amid hot run of form

Chelsea star close to breaking into England squad as stock rises amid hot run of form   CONOR GALLAGHER’S rapid progress is not going...
Chelsea star close to breaking into England squad as stock rises amid hot run of form


CONOR GALLAGHER’S rapid progress is not going unnoticed by Gareth Southgate. And though he has not been included in the latest England squad, it may just be a matter of time before he is selected at the rate he is going.

 Southgate’s No2 Steve Holland was at Selhurst Par on Monday night to monitor the English talent on display and will surely have been impressed with Gallagher. The 21-year-old won the penalty that led to Wilfried Zaha’s eighth goal against arch-rivals Brighton with a positive run. But his all-round, energetic display from his side's box to the opponents' caught the eye again, just as it has in nigh-on every Eagles game this term.

Humble Gallagher has always been a well-liked character of any squad he has been a part of and hugely appreciated by his coaches. But perhaps his biggest asset is his determination to blast open any ceiling others have put on his potential. For instance, Chelsea have been known to give long-term contracts to their best 16-year-olds but when Gallagher reached that age, he was only offered a scholarship deal.

It was the same treatment for close pal Reece James, who played in a Sunday League Under-8s side with Gallagher even before they joined the Blues. Both players responded well to what could have been seen as a disappointment, working harder than ever to prove their worth. Gallagher developed a bit later than most of his peers.

He was included in the England squad that won the Under-17 World Cup under Steve Cooper four years ago, starting one game and making three sub appearances in others. Yet that call-up to the tournament was the first tim he had ever been selected for his country. He was named Under-18s captain for Chelsea for his ability to lead by example rather than being a ranter and a raver.

Gallagher suffered a scare when he was away with England at the Under-19 Euros in 2018 when his heart started beating alarmingly fast in a training session. Eventually, it was discovered after a scan back at Chelsea that he had an irregular beat and had surgery to fix it.

Speaking to SunSport two years ago in Albania after a glittering display for England’s Under-21s, Gallagher reflected on the ordeal. He said:

“It definitely drives me on because it’s a bit of a scare, isn’t it? “It makes you appreciate it more when you’re out there on the pitch playing. You have to give 100 per cent because every single one of us is lucky to be here.”

LOAN RANGER In what is a recurring theme across his career, Gallagher responded impressively the next season and was named Chelsea’s academy player of the year. It was then time to gain some senior experience and though he had other options, he felt Lee Bowyer’s Charlton suited his style most.

The youngster impressed with six goals in three months and with a break clause in his contract, Chelsea decided to end the temporary spell in January and farm him out to a side competing at the top end of the Championship in Swansea for the second half of the campaign.

There he worked under Cooper again and the split campaign was deemed almost like gaining two seasons’ loan experience in one and thus speeding up his progress. The next step was the Premier League, despite clubs from Germany queuing up to borrow him. Gallagher opted for West Brom, and though the team were relegated, it was a highly productive season for him personally.

He was forced to become more of a disciplined midfielder under Sam Allardyce, which could serve him well should he make it at Chelsea, as he woul likely play in a deeper role there. Allardyce could have opted for a more senior player in Jake Livermore to play that position but he trusted Gallagher.

No younger outfield player played more Premier League minutes that term, barring Wolves’ Pedro Neto and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, neither of whom are central midfielders. There was a strong possibility Gallagher could have stayed at Chelsea this season with Thomas Tuchel a big fan. It was a relatively late decision to loan him out again and this time he had NINE clubs interested.

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