Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher has dropped back into the England U21 squad after missing out on senior squad selection on Thursday.
England boss Gareth Southgate selected his 28-man squad for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany later this month. And Gallagher, who has featured six times for Chelsea this season, was left out.
Instead Southgate went for a midfield five of Jude Bellingham, James Ward-Prowse, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.
The latter was included despite playing just one minute in the Premier League for Man City all season.
Southgate admitted the situation was awkward, but claimed Phillips like Harry Maguire et al could prove crucial to England.
“Clearly, we have a number of players including Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips who are not playing a lot of minutes with their club,” said Southgate.
“It is not ideal, but we feel they have been, and can be, important players for us. It is not a perfect situation but there is still a lot of football to be played before Qatar.”
Gallagher has since been selected for England’s Under-21s after thinking he had graduated from there last season.
Under-21s coach Lee Carsley says Gallagher will have as much pride in playing for the youth team, saying: “We welcome Conor Gallagher back to the group which is another example of us having a fluid pathway across our national teams.
“I know Conor will take to the pitch with as much pride in wearing an England shirt for the under-21s as he would for the seniors.”
Gallagher, 22, is able to play for the Under-21s until next summer. But the central midfielder is likely to see the move as a demotion.
He forced his way into Southgate’s thinking last season after starring out on loan at Crystal Palace. He earned four caps, but his only Three Lions start was in the crushing 4-0 defeat to Hungary at Molineux.
Gallagher confidence tester
England were taken apart by a quick-transitioning Hungary team, and while Gallagher was not the worst on show, he did not push his claims for a place in the World Cup squad.
Phillips had a far worse night in the midlands. But he has been retained despite sitting on the bench under Pep Guardiola.
Gallagher now looks like an outside bet to be on the plane for the World Cup in Qatar in November.
Just how much confidence that will suck from the player remains to be seen. He was trusted in central midfield by sacked Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel.
Graham Potter left the midfielder out of his starting XI in the Champions League in midweek. But Gallagher did get 10 minutes as a second-half sub in the 1-1 draw with Red Bull Salzburg.
Full England U21 squad: Bursik, Griffiths, Trafford, Aarons, Colwill, Creswell, Harwood-Bellis, Mbete, Sessegnon, Spence, Thomas, Doyle, Elliott, Gallagher, Garner, Gibbs-White, McAtee, Ramsey, Skipp, Brewster, Gordon, Palmer, Lewis-Potter, Gomes, Balogun.
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