WHEN Gareth Southgate was promoted to the position of Middlesbrough manager in the summer of 2006, he sat his former team-mates down in a meeting room at Rockliffe Park. “I know this is going to be awkward for you because you call me ‘Gareth’ or ‘Gate’,” he said. “But from now on, I want you to call me ‘Gaffer’ or ‘Boss’.”

The meeting continued, and when Southgate had said his piece, Ray Parlour piped up from the corner of the room. “What about ‘Big Nose’?” he joked. “You’re in the reserves today,” responded Southgate. Within the space of a few months, Parlour was leaving Middlesbrough to join Hull City.

Southgate freely admits he made plenty of mistakes during his time as Boro boss, but the experience taught him the importance of being decisive and of backing his judgements to the hilt. Both traits will be apparent if, as widely expected, he leaves Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey out of the World Cup squad he will announce tomorrow.

If you were ranking England’s midfielders on performance levels alone from the second half of the season, Shelvey would be close to the top of the list. Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling can claim to have outperformed him, but posited against the likes of Jake Livermore, Jack Wilshere and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – all of whom are still in contention for a place on the plane to Russia – Shelvey’s displays have towered above those of his rivals.

His passing range is far greater, and he is one of the few English players capable of landing a 50-yard pass onto the foot of a speeding team-mate. A lack of discipline has been an issue throughout his career, but after linking up with a sports psychologist, he has not picked up a single yellow card in 2018. Livermore, lest we forget, was part of a group of West Brom players that stole a taxi in Barcelona.

To Southgate, though, the character change is a case of too little, too late. The England boss made up his mind about Shelvey as soon as the midfielder’s name was mentioned as a possible World Cup candidate. Too erratic, too unpredictable, too difficult to integrate into the rest of the squad. No matter what Shelvey did in the second half of the season, he was never going to be wearing an England shirt in Russia. A harsh judgement undoubtedly, but one that Southgate has never been tempted to change.

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The majority of the names that will be announced tomorrow were inked in a long time ago. John Stones has barely played for Manchester City in the last few months, but remains a key part of Southgate’s first-choice team. Marcus Rashford has struggled to get much game time for Manchester United this season, but has done whatever Southgate has asked of him whenever he has pulled on an England shirt.

That said, though, there has had to be some last-minute tinkering because of the injuries that have ruled Liverpool duo Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of this summer’s tournament. Neither was a guaranteed starter under Southgate, but both would have offered a degree of flexibility that has proved difficult to replace.

Gomez’s ability to play at both centre-half and full-back would have been useful, with Southgate planning to start England’s World Cup opener against Tunisia with three central defenders on the field. Ideally, the England boss wants to avoid a situation where he has to take more than eight defenders to Russia, even though he will be starting with five on the pitch.

Eric Dier’s ability to slot into the back four helps the situation, but Gomez would have been a useful ‘floater’. As it is, Southgate looks set to continue with his plan of playing Kyle Walker as a centre-half, meaning Trent Alexander-Arnold could supplement Kieran Trippier at right-back. On the opposite flank, one of Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand or Ashley Young will have to miss out.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form prior to his injury might well have seen him start as one of England’s two central-midfielders, alongside either Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson. That will not happen now, but against Tunisia and Panama in particular, a pairing of Dier and Henderson would surely be too defensive.

Dele Alli could drop deep, enabling Southgate to find a spot for Jesse Lingard further up the field, but there is a suddenly a couple of gaps in the squad for a combination of Wilshere, Loftus-Cheek, Adam Lallana, Lewis Cook and potentially even Fabian Delph to fill. Wilshere continues to have his champions, but has surely run out of chances. Lallana did well for Southgate at the start of the qualifying campaign, and that will not have been forgotten. Despite his lack of game time this season, the Liverpool midfielder could well get the nod.

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In attack, England continue to be reliant on Harry Kane, although Southgate will surely use one of next month’s friendlies against Nigeria and Costa Rica to test out the potential for playing Jamie Vardy alongside the Tottenham striker. Southgate has tended to play with one up front throughout his time as England boss, but unlike his opinion of Shelvey, that might have to be subtly adjusted.

Possible squad: J Pickford, J Butland, J Hart; K Trippier, T Alexander-Arnold, K Walker, J Stones, H Maguire, P Jones, R Bertrand, D Rose; E Dier, J Henderson, J Livermore, R Loftus-Cheek, A Lallana, J Lingard, D Alli, R Sterling; H Kane, J Vardy, M Rashford, D Welbeck.