Conor Gallagher credits Mauricio Pochettino with upturn in form as Chelsea ace eyes Euro 2024 impact

Conor Gallagher credits former Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino with improving him as a player and boosting his standing with England, as the midfielder remains non-committal on his future at Stamford Bridge following the Pochettino’s departure.

Gallagher is a contender to start England's opening game of Euro 2024 against Serbia on Sunday after an impressive season under Pochettino, who frequently named him captain.

Chelsea, though, replaced Pochettino with Leicester’s Enzo Maresca at the end of the campaign, with suggestions that the Argentine’s reluctance to lose Gallagher - who is about to enter the final year of his contract - was among the sticking points between him and the club.

Gallagher says he feels more important to England than at the winter World Cup in Qatar last season, when he was an unused squad player, and believes his development is largely down to Pochettino’s faith.

"I've come a long way this season," Gallagher told a news conference at England's training base in Blankenhain.

"I give a lot of credit to Pochettino and what he's done for me.

Conor Gallagher faced off with Standard Sport’s Malik Ouzia in the players vs journalists darts martch on Thursday (Getty Images)
Conor Gallagher faced off with Standard Sport’s Malik Ouzia in the players vs journalists darts martch on Thursday (Getty Images)

“He gave me a responsibility and trust at Chelsea. It puts me in a better position to be a bigger part of the [England] squad at this tournament.

"He just showed his belief and trust in me, which is all a player wants to be honest. If a manager shows you a bit of love, it makes you play better, long story short. It gives you confidence and that's what he gave me.

“Of course, like I said [Pochettino] has done so much for me so I was sad for him and the coaching staff [to leave the club] but I'm really excited about the new manager coming in. Myself and everyone else at Chelsea are really excited to work with him.

Gallagher added: "[The Euros] does [feel different to Qatar] to be fair. I kind of expected not to play in a way, I still loved the experience and was so honoured to be there but I never expected to come on or start games.

“But it's a couple of years on and I'm in a different position, I've developed well as a player, more experienced, so I'm helping I can help the team more on the pitch at this tournament."

Chelsea's turbulent season under Pochettino included 11 Premier League defeats and a dispiriting loss in the Carabao Cup Final to a depleted Liverpool, but they ended the campaign with five straight wins to pip Newcastle and Manchester United to sixth place.

"I've really enjoyed it," added Gallagher.

"When I'm playing football, I'm happy. And I've been playing on a consistent basis this season. So I've just wanted to work as hard as possible to help Chelsea as much as I can and England when I've played.

"I'll say again, a lot of credit to Pochettino for giving me the opportunity to show Chelsea what I can do last season."

Conor Gallagher paid tribute to the impact of Mauricio Pochettino (AFP via Getty Images)
Conor Gallagher paid tribute to the impact of Mauricio Pochettino (AFP via Getty Images)

Gallagher is expected to be the subject of bids from Tottenham and Aston Villa before the end of the month, with Chelsea under pressure to offload players before June 30 to ensure they comply with the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules (PSR) for the financial year.

The Cobham academy graduate was coy when asked if he would still be a Chelsea player next season but insists his future is not proving a distraction in Germany.

"I'm a Chelsea player right now but I'm just thinking about England and the tournament," he said.

"This is the most important thing right now for me, for the country. I just want to start the tournament now.

"It's not difficult. I'm in a very privileged position to pay for England and be at a tournament like this. I couldn't be happier with the situation I'm in."

Gallagher is competing with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton for one midfield place next to Declan Rice at the Euros and revealed manager Gareth Southgate was delighted with his performance in the warm-up friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina last week.

Asked if it was his best display for England, Gallagher said: "I believe so. The manager actually said that to me this morning as well, so it's really positive."