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The Mental Health Champions who are helping to improve young minds in Bradford

YOUNG people are feeling the pressure.

Issues such as social media and educational expectations are contributing to the impact on health and well being – but a new initiative aims to give children the tools to effectively deal with life‘s pressures.

The positive profiling of mental health in the media is helping to de-stigmatise this once silent condition. World Mental Health Day – recognised by The World Health Organisation on October 10 2017 – raises awareness of mental health, and high profile supporters such as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are also doing their bit after spearheading the mental health initiative ‘Heads Together.’

Mental Health is, after all, an important issue to tackle and, according to educational psychologist Vicki Morris, the earlier the better.

According to the Mental Health Foundation 10 per cent of children and young people aged five to 16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70 per cent of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (Children’s Society, 2008).

Vicki, who works with Bradford Council, says she believes children and young people are under far more pressure today at school and through social media than they used to be. “There is so much pressure on children now because of the systems in place and the pressure of social media and I think we have better awareness now.”

Launched in Bradford in March, The Mental Health Champions Project has been running in more than 50 schools across the district.

The pilot project is funded by the NHS Bradford Commissioning Groups and supported by The Educational Psychology Team within Bradford Council and Primary Mental Health workers from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

It developed as part of the Government’s drive to support the mental health needs of children and young people following NHS England‘s ‘Future in Mind’ strategy published in 2015 as part of the Mental Health Services Reform.

Vicki, who is carrying on the baton from Dr Philippa Grace, specialist senior educational psychologist (Mental Health) in delivering the Mental Health Champions project, explains each school appointed a volunteer member of staff as their Mental Health Champion to promote and deliver termly themes including sensitive issues such as the Mental Health effects of bullying; self harm and anxiety, through school assemblies, classrooms and in one to one work with children during school time.

In addition, a website is being developed to promote awareness of subjects covered in school as well as provide an invaluable resource to the community, parents and the public, that can be accessed at home or on the specially created mobile version of the website.

Chatting with Sally Leng at a recent Mental Health Champions meeting at Culture Fusion in Bradford, it seems incomprehensible that children are suffering from stress and anxiety.

Sally, a mental health champion at Worthinghead Primary School in Wyke, says at one time people didn’t probably think children had stress or anxiety, they are children – what have they to be stressed about?

But Sally believes it is an issue which has always existed – we are more aware of it now.

“I think it has always been there. I think it is like all these things, it’s like named conditions, they have always been there but we were not aware. Children have the same emotions as adults but it’s about normalising a lot of it for children, helping them to understand their feelings and helping them build up that resilience.”

For Sally, becoming a Mental Health Champion is a natural extension to her role. She already works with groups and individuals giving children from foundation age to Year 6 the techniques to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety.

Among the ‘tools’ pupils are taught to help them cope are relaxation methods and running sessions. Knowing there is someone they can talk to is beneficial too as well as having encouragement and praise which can help to improve feelings of self worth.

Says Sally: “Mental health issues are being talked about so much now in adults, but you just don’t become an adult and have mental health issues, it starts earlier on and it is giving them the tools to manage because life is difficult. It is about giving them the tools to cope.”

Lillian Sharp, Worthinghead Primary headteacher says the project has brought great benefits to the whole school.

“When Sally goes into classes to do the relaxation techniques all the teachers accept it is important and they join in. The benefits are you get that ethos in school that everybody accepts. We are all in this together and we are all there to support them.”

For more information about the Mental Health Champions visit mentalhealthmattersinschools.org.uk. Professionals interested in their schools participating in the project can contact faye.keenan@relatebradford.com. Updates on the progress of the website and further information can be found on the Mental Health Matters in Schools Facebook page; Mentalhealthmatters Inschools.

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‘I felt so low, I couldn’t see a way out’

girl on phone

“To get to my school I had to cross a railway bridge and I would just stand there and think ‘I could just jump off’.

“It felt overwhelming and like I was alone. I just felt so, so low, I couldn’t see a way out.”

Calleigh, now 18, was self-harming when she was 11 and first thought about taking her own life when she was 13.

“I didn’t want to tell my parents because I thought they would be worried and disappointed or not understand.”

Calleigh’s story comes as the charity Childline says it has received its highest number of counselling sessions with young people having suicidal thoughts and feelings.

In 2016/17, a total of 22,456 sessions were given to children in the UK thinking about taking their own life – up from 19,481 the year before.

More than 2,000 contacts were with young people who had already taken steps to end their lives, such as writing a note, giving meaningful items away or even planning their death.

For Calleigh, a perfectionist nature, coupled with extensive pressure from a high-achieving school, meant she sank to a very low point.

But making contact with Childline proved to be a lifeline – literally.

  • 22,456 sessions about suicidal thoughts

  • 72% of those who had this counselling were girls

  • 13,746 sessions about anxiety

  • 295,202 counselling sessions in total

Jupiter Images

“I was able to talk to someone, they were able to say ‘ok what’s making you feel like this?’, ‘take one step at a time’ and they’re just so supportive.

“I’d call them when I wanted to self-harm. I would message them – they’ve got amazing messageboards, it’s like a forum but it’s safe, you’re not going to get bad messages and there are so many other people that are feeling the same way.”

What should you do if you feel like this?

Calleigh says it’s important to seek help – and to remember that there doesn’t always have to be a reason for feeling at breaking point.

“I’d say you definitely can’t bottle it up, because that makes it so much worse – just talk to someone, even if it’s online.

“Talking to someone who’s not in the problem, who you know is not going to judge you or worry – because my main problem was ‘I don’t want my parents to worry, there’s so much stress’ – and just knowing that you’re not alone and that it’s not your fault.

“And there doesn’t have to be a reason, it doesn’t have to be that you were bullied, it doesn’t have to be pressure, it could just be you feel numb because you feel numb.”

What does the future hold?

Childline founder and president Dame Esther Rantzen says it’s vital to find out why so many young people are feeling so desperate.

“When Childline launched over 30 years ago, I remember children usually felt suicidal because they were being hurt by someone.

“Now young people tell us they are overwhelmed by mental health issues taking them to the brink of suicide.

“We must discover why so many of our young people feel so isolated they turn to Childline, because they believe no one else cares about them.”

Calleigh wants to see much more done to raise the profile of mental health issues.

“I strongly feel that teachers, parents and support staff need to know more about mental health and they need to look out for the signs.”

In the meantime, Dame Esther is urging members of the public to come forward as volunteer counsellors for Childline.

“Anyone who can lend a few hours to this vital service could end up saving a child’s life.”

Help can be found by ringing the Childline helpline on 0800 1111 or via the Childline website.

Action expected on early GCSE entry in Wales

PupilsImage copyright PeopleImages/Getty Images
Image caption Nearly a fifth of entries in some GCSEs in Wales this year were from Year 10 students

Action is expected to be taken on early GCSE entry in Wales.

An announcement is due later on Monday, following concerns raised over the summer by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams.

Early exam entry was a key reason for a drop in the Wales-wide GCSE results this summer, according to the exam regulator Qualifications Wales.

Nearly a fifth of entries in English language, Welsh and Maths exams in the summer were from pupils from year 10.

Ms Williams described the current situation as “unsustainable” in August.

She signalled that the “perverse incentives” that drive some schools to enter children early “should be taken out of the system”.

“I want early entry to be only for the children who will benefit from it,” she added.

There were more than 43,000 early entries at GCSE last summer – half way into courses designed for two years.

The results show younger pupils less likely to gain the very top grades than their Year 11 counterparts.

In addition, it is estimated that schools spent more than £3.3m during the 2016-17 academic year on early entry.

‘Sufficient support’

Gareth Evans, the director of education policy at University of Wales Trinity St David, said he was worried that some schools were entering pupils early to help performance results for the school – and not in the best interest of the student.

“The issue I think is GCSEs were designed for pupils aged 16,” he argued.

“If students are sitting the exams a year ahead of schedule, they haven’t had sufficient support, content knowledge and training to deliver the best results.”

The expert told BBC Wales’ Good Morning Wales programme that it was “perfectly legitimate” for some brighter pupils to be entered early.

But he added: “Schools are having so much pressure now to achieve certain targets at GCSE. The pressure is so great that they are perhaps pushing students through early entry a little earlier than they should do – to meet these targets.”

‘Not practical’ to investigate all crime

Met Police officers
Image caption The force is having to save £400m by 2020

Some crimes such as shoplifting and criminal damage may not be investigated in London because it is “not practical” to do so, Scotland Yard has said.

The force said it was facing “many challenges” while having to save £400m by 2020, so work had to be prioritised.

New guidelines have been introduced to allow officers to assess what is “proportionate” to investigate.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons said officers must be “focused on serious crime”.

Mr Simmons said the new Crime Assessment Policy was “empowering our officers” to judge whether it was proportionate to investigate some offences such as shoplifting, car crime and criminal damage.

“With the pressure on our resources it is not practical for our officers to spend a considerable amount of time looking into something where for example, the value of damage or the item stolen is under £50, or the victim is not willing to support a prosecution,” he said

“We are not talking about things like homicide, kidnap, sexual offences, hate crime or domestic violence, but the lower level, higher volume offences.”

The UK‘s biggest police force said it was having to deal with a higher number of recorded crimes while trying to make savings.

“We need our officers to be focused on serious crime and cases where there is a realistic chance that we will be able to solve it,” Mr Simmons said.

MPs urged by families to help Britons jailed in India

The 'Chennai Six'
Image caption (From top left, clockwise) Nick Dunn, Paul Towers, Nick Simpson, Ray Tindall, John Armstrong and Billy Irving

Relatives of six British seamen jailed in India four years ago have lobbied MPs to demand the government do more to help secure their release.

The six were arrested in October 2013 for taking weapons into India‘s territorial waters. They were convicted and jailed for five years in 2016.

The men deny any wrongdoing, saying the weapons were properly licensed.

A 405,000-signature petition calling for the “wrongly imprisoned” men to be freed has been handed in at Number 10.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Yvonne MacHugh, fiance of Billy Irving, and her two-year-old son, William delivered the petition with other relatives of the Chennai Six

Indian coastguards boarded their vessel, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, while the men were working as security guards to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Charges against them and 29 other crew members were initially quashed when the men argued the weapons were lawfully held for anti-piracy purposes.

However, a lower court reinstated the prosecution.

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The British men – all former soldiers – are:

Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland

Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll

Ray Tindall, from Chester

Paul Towers, from Pocklington, East Riding of Yorkshire

John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria

Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire

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Joanne Thomlinson, the sister of John Armstrong, said: “My fiveyear-old son hasn’t seen his uncle John since he was a baby, he only really remembers him from pictures.

“My brother tries to take one day at a time, he spends his days walking, he’s learning a foreign language, that’s how he gets through each day, he gives himself little milestones.”

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A number of other guards on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, mainly Estonians, have also been jailed

Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the matter on a visit to India and Britain’s High Commissioner in India has visited the men in jail in Chennai, but the families say Foreign Office diplomacy is not working.

Speaking to the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme, Mrs Thomlinson added: “We know they’ve raised this case over 50 times at ministerial level with Indian counterparts, but we want them to put more pressure on in these discussions.”

Lawyer Stephen Askins, who represents the imprisoned men, said: “It is extraordinary that it is the fourth anniversary of the arrest and the initial detention of these men.

“I can’t believe that any of us would have thought we would still be here, four years later, dealing with this.”

Fertility MOT tests ‘a waste of money’

Women talkingImage copyright Getty Images

Fertility tests marketed at women worried they have left it too late to have a baby, can be a “waste of money”.

Ovarian reserve tests, which can cost £100 or more, measure hormones in blood to give an idea of how many eggs a woman has.

Latest research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the tests did not predict a woman‘s chance of conceiving, however.

Women must be told this, experts say.

The tests were originally developed by IVF clinics to predict how a woman having fertility treatment might respond to the drugs used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.

But some companies have been marketing them to women as a fertility MOT.

Poor predictor

The JAMA study included 750 women aged 30 to 44 years who had no history of infertility and had been trying to conceive for three months or less.

The results showed that low AMH or high FSH – the hormones that ovarian reserve tests measure – had no bearing on the chance of a woman becoming pregnant within any given month, and did not lead to a lower chance of conceiving after six or 12 months.

Experts point out that many women with low ovarian reserves will conceive without any problems, while others with a good ovarian reserve may take time and need fertility treatment.

Dr Channa Jayasena, a fertility expert at Imperial College London, said: “Hormone levels change with time, so taking a snapshot today tells us very little about what women’s fertility will be like tomorrow.

“This study tells us that measuring these hormones to predict fertility in potentially worried and vulnerable women is wrong, and should be stopped.”

He said anyone concerned about their fertility should see their doctor.

The tests might still be useful for investigating women with fertility problems to help decide what treatment to give, experts say.

British Fertility Society president Professor Adam Balen advised: “Fertility does decline as both men and particularly women get older, and so if you start trying for a baby and think there may be problems, or if you’ve been trying for a year without success, don’t delay before seeking advice from a fertility specialist, who will then guide you to the appropriate tests that are right for your personal situation.”

Prof Richard Anderson, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Many more women are concerned about having their first child when older than was the case for previous generations, leading to pressure to seek ‘fertility tests’. This paper, confirming smaller earlier studies, shows that we do not have such a thing.”

He added: “It’s important to note however that this study has only short-term outcomes – the chance of conceiving in the next 6-12 months – and doesn’t examine what these tests might tell us about fertility in say five years time.”

Rochdale inquiry: Cyril Smith ‘a puppet master abuser’

Cyril SmithImage copyright PA
Image caption The abuse inquiry is hearing allegations about abuse by Rochdale’s former Liberal MP Cyril Smith

Cyril Smith treated a children’s home as his “personal fiefdom” and abused residents for “perverted amusement”, an inquiry heard.

Laura Hoyano, representing eight alleged victims, said Smith was a “puppet master” who escaped justice.

MI5 intelligence on the allegations “raises a spectre of collusion” over his activities, Ms Hoyano said.

The independent inquiry is examining the late MP’s alleged abuse of young boys in Rochdale institutions.

A dossier of information on the Liberal MP was held by the security services and has been disclosed to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

‘Political pressure’

On Monday, counsel to the inquiry Brian Altman QC, said Sir Norman Skelhorn – then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – claimed in 1970 a police investigation of Smith was unlikely to lead to a prosecution.

This was followed nine years later, Mr Altman said, when MI5 was informed the Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP) was told by Sir Norman’s successor, Thomas Hetherington, there was no record of the 1970 case.

Referring to the claims, Ms Hoyano asked: “Was political pressure brought to bear upon the DPP from politicians and members of the Liberal Party from 1969 to 1970?

“Why would Sir Thomas Hetherington decide he should lie to journalists, stating that he had not submitted a prosecution file?

“Why would the DPP contact MI5 about this at all? We say this dossier from MI5 raises a spectre of collusion.”

Staff at University of Leeds to take part in three day strike

STAFF at the University of Leeds will take part in a strike from tomorrow until Friday over changes to the university’s dismissal policy.

There will be three consecutive days of strike action following the university’s decision to amend its employment statute. The University and College Union says the changes will allow the university to allow employees to be dismissed for ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ which the union has dubbed a ‘sackers’ charter’.

In a ballot of UCU members, two-thirds (67 per cent) of those who voted backed strike action.

UCU Leeds branch president Vicky Blake said: “The University of Leeds is insisting on an open ended catch-all power to dismiss staff on the grounds of ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’, posing a serious threat to our member’s job security.

“We believe the change could enable the university to sack people for all sorts of dubious reasons and may restrict staff from pursuing new ideas or controversial topics within their daily work. UCU is also concerned that this sackers’ charter could subject staff to third party commercial or political pressure over unpopular research findings, or could even risk staff being sacked for a breakdown in trust with a manager.

Strike action is always a last resort but the university needs to urgently reconsider these damaging changes if it is to maintain the confidence of its staff.”

A University spokesperson said: “The University is not introducing any new grounds for dismissal, it is simply modernising the procedures it would follow, in the interests of openness and transparency. Checks and balances that prevent any abuse of procedures have been included, and the principle and protection of academic freedom – a cornerstone of our constitution – is made explicit in all relevant procedures.

“We are disappointed with the decision to take industrial action, which we genuinely believe is unnecessary. We will do everything we can to ensure that students are not adversely affected. Only a small proportion of our staff took part in an equivalent strike earlier this year.”

Fairy lights bomb plotter Zahid Hussain jailed for life

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Media captionFairy lights bomb plot: Zahid Hussain guilty of terror preparation

A man who planned to bomb a railway line with a device made from fairy lights and a pressure cooker has been jailed for life.

Zahid Hussain, 29, from Birmingham, filled the appliance with 1.6kg of shrapnel and made “improvised igniters” from the festive decorations.

Hussain became radicalised reading books and websites in his bedroom.

He was convicted of preparing for an act of terrorism in May and sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Monday.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Hussain was spotted climbing down a storm drain near the West Coast Main Line

His trial was told he wrongly believed his non-viable pressure cooker “bomb” was capable of causing devastation.

In the days running up to his arrest, in August 2015, Hussain had made repeated visits to a section of the West Coast Main Line, which the prosecution said was to research a possible attack.

Following his arrest books on guerrilla warfare were also discovered, including one which talked of mounting attacks on railways.

His computer showed he had an interest in so-called Islamic State and events in Syria.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Police found a homemade bomb of a pressure cooker and Christmas lights

Sentencing “dangerous” Hussain, Mr Justice Sweeney said that had his device been viable, it would have been capable of causing a “significant explosion”.

The judge concluded that on the evidence and reports of several expert psychiatric reports, Hussain had – during the time of the offence – and still did, suffer with paranoid schizophrenia.

The judge said a life sentence was “appropriate” in view of “the level of the danger that you pose, and the impossibility of predicting when it will come to an end”.

Hussain will serve a minimum of 15 years.

For better or worse

England qualified for the World Cup with victory over Slovenia last week

England manager Gareth Southgate painted a brutally honest picture of his current squad – and arguably their chances at next summer’s World Cup – when he cast doubt on whether he possessed “big players”.

Southgate has secured qualification for Russia but England’s progress has been unspectacular and they will not travel accompanied by great expectations.

England’s last brush with tournament football was that harrowing night in Nice in June last year when they lost 2-1 to Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016 and manager Roy Hodgson effectively resigned on the spot.

It followed a dismal World Cup in Brazil in 2014, when England did not make it out of the group stage following defeats by Italy and Uruguay and were reduced to the embarrassment of playing out a dead rubber against Costa Rica in their final game.

So, with Southgate putting his squad’s quality into context, and looking back at previous selections, are England in any better shape to make an impact in Russia than they were in Brazil and France?

Goalkeepers

England took Fraser Forster, Ben Foster and Joe Hart to the 2014 World Cup and Tom Heaton, Forster and Hart to Euro 2016
England’s goalkeepers at the past two tournaments
World Cup 2014 Euro 2016
Fraser Forster (Celtic) Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Ben Foster (West Brom) Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Joe Hart (Manchester City) Joe Hart (Manchester City)

England’s goalkeepers for the 2018 World Cup almost pick themselves – and it is a stronger hand than Hodgson had to play with in the past two major tournaments.

Southgate appears to have settled on Joe Hart as his first choice but the memories of his edgy, hyped-up displays in the 2014 World Cup and his crucial errors for goals conceded against Wales and Iceland at Euro 2016 mean this is a debate that will continue.

England are in a better place to deal with this problem now because back-up and competition is better than it has been for years with 24-year-old Jack Butland excelling at Stoke City and Jordan Pickford, 23, shining after his £30m move to Everton.

Hart needs to maintain his form to fight off this pair, with Burnley’s Tom Heaton also in the shake-up for a squad place, but he will be under the microscope once the World Cup starts to see how he copes with the pressure.

Verdict: England’s overall quality is stronger but Southgate looks set to keep faith with a keeper whose flaws were exposed in Brazil and France. Will it prove a mistake?

Defenders

Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are the only two defenders to have been in both of England’s past two major tournament squads
England’s defenders at the past two tournaments
World Cup 2014 Euro 2016
Leighton Baines (Everton) Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jagielka (Everton) Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) Danny Rose (Tottenham)
Phil Jones (Manchester United) Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Luke Shaw (Southampton) John Stones (Everton)
Chris Smalling (Manchester United) Kyle Walker (Tottenham)

England’s options in the defensive areas for next year look stronger than they did in previous tournaments – but that does not mean Southgate’s backline will give off an air of confidence.

The full-backs are almost interchangeable with Kyle Walker established at right-back and Ryan Bertrand now the regular left-back. Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Rose at Tottenham provide similar alternatives but are struggling with injury.

A back four of Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Glen Johnson was ageing and cruelly exposed in Brazil and Southgate will surely be casting eyes in the direction of Manchester in the hope a solid central-defensive partnership emerges.

John Stones and Gary Cahill played together in the recent qualifier against Slovenia at Wembley

Phil Jones’ career had threatened to stall after early comparisons with Duncan Edwards but he has flourished under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. John Stones, who also suffered a dip after his £47.5m move from Everton to Manchester City, is again starting to look like the defender who was once regarded as the future but then disappeared almost undetected from the England team.

Jones and Stones, at their best and if their renaissance continues, offer a good blend in central defence and an upgrade on the Cahill/Chris Smalling partnership in France – but Southgate may still want the Chelsea’s captain’s experience, even though he has struggled at major tournaments.

He will probably want his pairing to come from those three, with Smalling still in contention, because the likes of Leicester City’s Harry Maguire and Everton’s Michael Keane offer promise, but will have nothing in the way of experience at the sharp end of a major tournament when the action starts in Russia.

Southgate opened up another possibility by using a three-man defensive system in Sunday’s final qualifier in Lithuania.

England have high-profile friendlies coming up against Germany and Brazil and they would appear to be the perfect opportunity to test out his preferred players in that system against high-class opposition.

England’s defensive candidates in the Premier League since August 2016
Games Tackles Blocks Interceptions Clearances Pass accuracy %
Ryan Bertrand 35 44 15 52 53 83.61
Gary Cahill 41 55 18 48 179 88.06
Nathaniel Clyne 37 80 2 43 54 83.34
Phil Jones 25 43 18 41 179 90.57
Michael Keane 41 38 50 75 302 74.68
Harry Maguire 36 64 34 76 180 76.70
Danny Rose 18 50 3 22 52 77.27
Chris Smalling 20 12 9 16 133 88.56
John Stones 34 33 14 46 129 92.88
Kyle Walker 39 77 6 42 109 81.68

Chris Waddle, who reached a World Cup semi-final with England in 1990, has concerns.

“Central defence has been a problem for a long time now since people like Rio Ferdinand left the scene,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve really had an outstanding partnership since the Terry-Ferdinand years.

“I think age is creeping up on some and do the younger ones like Keane and Maguire have the experience to go into a major tournament against the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain? I’m not so sure.”

Verdict: If Jones and Stones are at their best they will be a nice contrast and give England a more solid appearance in central defence – it is still a big “if” at this stage of the season.

Walker and Bertrand or Rose will be the full-back partnership, positions England were found short in at the past two tournaments.

Southgate may just have a better defence than Hodgson had in Brazil and France but it still has a vulnerable look and you would not stake your life on its reliability under pressure.

Midfielders

Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner and Jack Wilshere made the squad in 2014 and 2016
England’s midfielders at the past two tournaments
World Cup 2014 Euro 2016
Ross Barkley (Everton) Dele Alli (Tottenham)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) Ross Barkley (Everton)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) Eric Dier (Tottenham)
Adam Lallana (Southampton) Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea) Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
James Milner (Manchester City) James Milner (Liverpool)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Here is where Southgate might have to pull off his biggest balancing act of all.

The central pairing of Jordan Henderson and a Steven Gerrard at the end of his England career failed in Brazil, while Liverpool’s current captain and Eric Dier were colourless and lacking impact in France. Their shortage of creativity and ‘much of a muchness’ combination must be addressed or Southgate risks faring no better than Hodgson in tournament combat.

The increasing desperation to find a cure has seen eyes cast towards Ross Barkley, injured and an outcast at Everton, in the hope he might find form with a move to Spurs in January and a quick-fix partnership with Dier that could work for club and country.

This is the same Barkley that Hodgson would not touch with a bargepole in France. Even Jack Wilshere’s name has appeared in the debate after resurfacing at Arsenal.

Former England international Waddle suggested Chelsea new boy Danny Drinkwater and Newcastle United maverick Jonjo Shelvey as possibilities and the stakes are high. If Southgate can find the answer England could make real progress on what was on offer in Brazil and France.

Chris Waddle’s England starting XI at the 2018 World Cup

A creative player could serve Dele Alli in his telepathic link with Spurs team-mate Harry Kane, and Adam Lallana – England’s best player before his injury, according to Southgate – will be another important addition in the midfield area once he is fit and playing for Liverpool.

There are young possibilities such as Everton teenager Tom Davies, Spurs rookie Harry Winks and Nathaniel Chalobah at Watford but it would require serious progress and serious trust from Southgate.

It could end up being a mix-and-match three-man midfield of Dier centrally, with Lallana and Henderson either side, Alli at 10 and a threatening strikeforce of Kane and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

Verdict: Southgate will hope for a late wildcard, perhaps Barkley, to stake a claim otherwise England’s stodgy central midfield will lack imagination and offer little improvement on 2014 in Brazil, and France last summer.

Forwards

Harry Kane (bottom left) is certain to lead the line for England in Russia
England’s forwards at the past two tournaments
World Cup 2014 Euro 2016
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton) Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

England will definitely pose more danger in attack than in France, when Kane looked exhausted and Wayne Rooney’s England career was drawing to a disappointing conclusion.

Kane is rejuvenated, full of confidence and is now a match-winner on the brink of world-class.

Rashford will have another 12 months of experience and know-how to make even more use of his fearlessness and blistering pace that will force any defence in world football to take a few steps back.

If one, or indeed both, come off in Russia – with Alli in support – England will carry real danger if they can get the supply right.

Phil Neville’s England starting XI at the 2018 World Cup

Former England international Phil Neville told BBC Sport: “We know the qualifying rounds are not really a barometer and friendlies are exactly that. Until we go to a major tournament it is difficult to say England are going to do this or that.

“We have got quality. This team are better for experiences in France.

“I see this as a fantastically talented England team who have got every chance of doing well in a tournament but until they get there and see how they react under pressure we will never know.”

England were short of punch in Brazil and France. Kane and Rashford can provide the knockout blows with the pace of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy a weapon off the bench.

Verdict: If it all comes together and Kane and Rashford stay fit, this is an area of real progress and promise for Southgate and England.

Manager

Gareth Southgate took over from Roy Hodgson’s successor, Sam Allardyce, who left the England job after one game

Hodgson actually looked at his best at Euro 2012, weeks into the England job and concentrating on what he did and does best. Organisation. Organisation. Organisation.

In Brazil and France it looked like Hodgson was too keen to get “with it” to prove critics who questioned his pragmatic style wrong, tinkering with attacking formations in a manner that was out of character, with inevitably disappointing results.

Southgate, new to the job and this elite level of international football, will be learning as he goes but the 2018 World Cup will be no free hit – he will need to produce acceptable results.

England’s World Cup wins
2014: None
2010: Slovenia (1-0)
2006: Paraguay (1-0), Trinidad & Tobago (2-0), Ecuador (1-0)
2002: Argentina (1-0), Denmark (3-0)
1998: Tunisia (2-0), Colombia (2-0)

Former England captain Terry Butcher is an admirer, saying: “I have seen him change systems and personnel. The Wayne Rooney situation, when he left his captain and major personality out, is an example where he showed he had a tough mentality and a tough character.

“Sometimes people see a calmness and gentleness about him but you shouldn’t mistake that for timidity and being afraid. He has got a lot of steel there.

“Gareth would not have had the career he had as a player without real steel and character. He was captain everywhere he played, and he would not be England manager without being ruthless.

“He has shown he can be ruthless and flexible. I have got no worries about Gareth and I am quite looking forward to him going into the World Cup as England manager.”

Southgate is a calm-headed realist who accepts some recent England displays have been disappointing. They have made heavy weather of a comfortable group and will strike no fear into opponents in Russia.

Southgate has a matter of months to put that right.

Verdict: Southgate will find it hard to do any worse than Hodgson did in Brazil and France but whether he is the upgrade England required will only be measured by events next summer.

England have improved goalkeeping alternatives – but will Southgate use them? – and an attack that looks potent as the preparations ramp up. Midfield, however, is a serious headache.

Friendlies against Germany and Brazil will sharpen some of the blurred lines around England’s squad and their World Cup aspirations but Southgate believes he has a blend of youth and experience to prove they are a better bet in Russia than they have been at recent showpiece events.