Conor Gallagher’s energy makes him a serious contender for Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad - Sue Smith

The 2022 World Cup kicks off a year tomorrow and unlike some big footballing nations, England know they will be there. The big question is which players should go?

Gareth Southgate has some really good players playing well, and some really good players not playing well, but who have shown what they can do at this level. There is also a crop of young players like Conor Gallagher.

We seem to highlight Gallagher every Monday on Sky Sports News and I have loved watching him progress. I love his energy and he is happy to do the dirty side as well as the quality stuff – an all-round midfielder.

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But with so many good players, I am not saying he should be in the starting XI, and he is not even guaranteed to make the squad.

England's Conor Gallagher is a World Cup contender (Picture: PA)

Jude Bellingham has gone to the Bundesliga to learn and every time I see him play he is superb, and then there is Jordan Henderson, who was brilliant against Albania, bossing people around, playing with real energy and showing the quality on the ball we see so often at Liverpool.

If I had to pick 23 now, I would not have a clue who to go with – just look at how many options there are at right-back! Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier could get into just about any team in the world.

Whoever is picked or left out, there is going to be uproar but it is still a good position to be in.

After a really successful summer, the form of some key players has dropped off, so it was good to see Harry Kane and Harry Maguire do well in the last international break.

Conor Gallagher has been earning rave reviews for Crystal Palace. (Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

I have been there, in 2009, when England lost the European Championship final to Germany.

All your training has been geared to peaking in the tournament and as you progress, all your focus is on getting to the final. You find yourself thinking what it would be like to win it, and when it is over, you have to get beyond the disappointment and back into another season.

So I can understand Maguire’s reaction after scoring against Albania, putting his fingers in his ears.

I do not agree with it and would not do it myself, but he was probably fed up. It was probably just a release of all the frustration. He will know his form has not been the best lately but we expect so much of him and Kane.

England's Harry Kane (left) scores their fifth goal against San Marino (Picture: PA)

Fans and pundits are quick to jump on out-of-form players but we do not always know all the reasons behind it. Maguire rushed back from injury and that can knock your confidence. When mistakes creep in you start to ask if it is the injury, or if you are not good enough.

Maybe both Harrys just needed a change of scenery, the positivity from the Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal lads around them which is probably a bit different from the mood at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. I hope they can take it back to their clubs.

So how should Southgate go about the next 12 months?

Ideally you want to play your best team and system but I am probably more on the side of picking players in form and trying a few new things.

England's Harry Maguire put his fingers in ears to silence the doubters after scoring against Albania (PIcture: PA)

Southgate has tried different systems and the personnel he has means he can play the same system in different ways – by picking Trippier or James, for example.

If you just pick your best XI, other teams will see that, and if there is an injury you want other players to fit in seamlessly. We had a period with the Lionesses where Hope Powell stuck to her best XI and the substitutes would only get five or 10 minutes so when you needed them in a tournament you were not sure if they were ready.

It also helps if you can play teams with the sort of styles you expect to face because you can come up with all the solutions you want on the training ground, doing it in a match is different.

Winning 10-0 does not do anyone any good. I have played in games like that and you might score or get player of the match and think does it mean anything against a lower standard of opposition than you face in club football every week?

Having reached the World Cup and Nations League semi-finals, and the final of the European Championships, England have a great balance – plenty of experience but not an old squad.

I am always full of optimism when it comes to England but they have to believe they can win this World Cup.