EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: PAUL GALLAGHER

Paul Gallagher during his first loan spell at Deepdale

Paul Gallagher during his first loan spell at Deepdale

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This is my third loan spell at Preston, so obviously there is a lot about this club that I like.

I’m told that I have played more games as a loan player for the club than anyone else – I must be doing something right.

I was brought up and went to school in Blackburn but I moved to live in Fulwood when I was 21 and I’m still in the area now at the age of 30, so I regard myself very much as a local lad.

My first loan here was back in 2007 when I was a Blackburn Rovers player.

When you are a younger player, it normally follows that you go out on loan in order to get games under your belt.

It was the opposite for me because I had played quite a lot of games for Blackburn before coming to Preston.

Looking back, I very much enjoyed that first loan spell.

We were a Championship club then and had a lot of very good players but, for whatever reason, we were fighting against relegation.

It was Paul Simpson who was the manager when I signed, his assistant was Rob Kelly who had been my youth-team coach at Blackburn.

Paul’s son was at Blackburn in a younger age group so he used to come down and watch training and, from that, knew what I was about.

During the loan, there was a change of manager with Paul being replaced by Alan Irvine.

He wanted me to come back on loan but it did not happen for some reason and I ended up going to Stoke for the rest of that season.

I did end up coming back to North End, albeit about six years later!

I’m older and wiser now, been through things in both my playing career and family life from which I have come out stronger.

There was a spell when, for reasons outside of the game, I was not enjoying playing.

But I’m back enjoying my football and being at Preston playing regularly has been a big help.

This is family club who look after you properly. They also look after your family in the right manner when they come to games.

When I signed last season, I wanted to be closer to home and Preston made it clear that I could play a big part here.

There were Championship clubs looking at me but I gave my word to North End and this is where I wanted to be.

It was about three months into last season that I signed and I do believe if some of the signings who came in after that had come a bit earlier, we might have made the top two.

This squad is blessed with different things – we have some very good technical players who are comfortable on the ball, some good athletes and players with pace.

It is all about getting that right blend over the course of the season.

This is a tough division, make no bones about it. Bristol City, Swindon and MK Dons who are up there with us, are all very good sides.

But we believe in our ability and the staff believe in us.

We all talk about our aim being promotion but talking about it is the easy part – doing it is a lot harder.

This is not the Spanish League, where results are almost guaranteed in certain games. It is an old cliché but there are no easy games in this division, whatever some people might think.

There are some good players in League One and a lot of them are big athletes who are in your face all the time.

Look at when we have played against Championship sides in the FA Cup and done well – you tend to get a bit more time on the ball to play.

The difference with a side from the Championship is that they tend to be more ruthless and will put chances away.

Another thing you have to get used to in the Football League is the run of games which tend to come thick and fast.

When I played for Blackburn it was Saturday-Saturday and what I had to get used to when I went out on loan was the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday schedule.

I doubt that any player goes into a game 100% fit – there will always be a niggle they are carrying or a bit of tiredness.

That is something you learn to cope with. I probably have not been 100% for six or seven years now!

But I want to play every game, even if you have got a sniffle or a knock.

Although I have been in the game for several years now and played at a few clubs, coming to Preston is only my second experience of League One.

My first was when I went on loan to Sheffield United a couple of seasons ago.

I think that when I went there, I remarked that they and Preston were the only two clubs I would consider joining in this division – and that has proved the case.

I enjoyed it at United. I’d had an injury at Leicester and it was about getting some games.

During the month there I played six games, which got me going again and I would have liked to have stayed a bit longer.

As it was, Leicester wanted me back in their squad, so back I went there.

After that, there was talk of me going to Huddersfield where Simon Grayson was at the time.

But for some reason, I did not end up joining them and stayed at Leicester.

Coming back to the present and we will be looking to get back to winning ways when we play Leyton Orient.

It is tight at the top of the table and we want to make sure that we stay right in the mix.

What will help carry us forward is the strength and depth of the squad here.

I think the manager has got 24 players to choose from, which is some number.

Even if he was to pick some of the lads who have not been involved that much, I’m sure they would come in and do a great job for the team.

After the two defeats of late, the aim is to get back to what we are good at and get ourselves on a winning run.