Chelsea: Conor Gallagher decision costly as Crystal Palace return tinged with sadness

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Returning to Selhurst Park tomorrow afternoon, Conor Gallagher would be forgiven for wondering how different things might look were he plying his trade there full-time this season.

There was strong desire from Crystal Palace to bring the midfielder back to the club after his fine loan spell last term, but Gallagher, understandably, was determined to fight for his place at one of the country’s leading clubs and Chelsea were content to let him.

It is far too early to say whether staying at Stamford Bridge was the right move for the 22-year-old’s career long-term, particularly as he is already working under a different manager to the one that kept him at the club in the summer.

More immediately, though, it may have cost him a trip to Qatar. So far this term, Gallagher has started three Premier League games, was sent off in one of them, and is yet to register a goal or an assist in any club competition, though he did serve a reminder of his quality with one of each back in Under-21 action for England against Italy and Germany over the past fortnight.

That he was playing for Lee Carsley rather than Gareth Southgate represents some regression after he was handed a senior debut by the latter last season. More established figures have retained their places in the Three Lions squad through benchings or loss of form, but Gallagher does not have that credit in the bank and was quick to be culled from an enlarged 28-man squad.

Conor Gallagher’s decision to stay at Chelsea may well have cost him a World Cup place (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Conor Gallagher’s decision to stay at Chelsea may well have cost him a World Cup place (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

With Kalvin Phillips a major doubt, a Gallagher leading the charge every week at Palace might be knocking on the door for a World Cup berth. With a month-and-a-half to go, that looks unlikely now.