Being the elder statesman of the Preston North End team has not quite sunk in for wideman Paul Gallagher.
When the former Blackburn and Stoke City star took to the field at Deepdale on Saturday – on his 30th birthday – he was the oldest member of the North End side.
Admittedly, he soon lost the title on Tuesday night when 36-year-old Kevin Davies was recalled for the 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Rochdale at Spotland.
However, with Joe Garner likely to be restored to the line-up for tomorrow’s trip to Glanford Park to face Scunthorpe after a slight knee injury, Gallagher seems set to assume the mantle of ‘old boy’ once more. It illustrates perfectly Simon Grayson’s policy of giving youth an opportunity at Deepdale when happy-go-lucky Gallagher is the team’s most experienced man.
“Thanks for that,” said Gallagher when he was reminded about his elder statesman role at the weekend.
“But I don’t feel that old to be fair.
“I think it just shows the amount of young players we have at the club that I am one of the oldest.
“When you look at Josh Brownhill, Alan Brown, Ben Davies...I’m 12 years older than some of them.
“I try to help them out along the way because I have got experience now.
“I have been their age once and been in the dressing room at that age.
“It’s a great place to be as a kid in the first team.
“If you can get in the first team at such a young age and get games under your belt, it will stand you in good stead.
“You can see that with the young players – they are thriving by being involved last year and they have come back, played all the pre-season games and now they’ve started the season.
“You just look around –there are about four or five of them who are all under 20 or 21.
“I think it shows that there’s a good system in place here of bringing young players through.”
Gallagher himself was just 18-years-old when he made his Premier League debut for Blackburn Rovers against Arsenal in March, 2003.
He came on as a substitute for Dwight Yorke in a 2-0 victory and although that was his only appearance for the Ewood Park club that season, he featured more regularly the following campaign – making 30 appearances.
Gallagher admitted that playing as a teenager alongside such established stars was a daunting, yet exciting, time for him.
“I did not expect to play to be honest when I was that age,” Gallagher said.
“But Andy Cole had a fall-out with the manager Graeme Souness and that got me in.
“So it was a good thing for me.
“But when you looked around the dressing room and saw players like Tugay, Dwight Yorke, Brad Friedel...they were big-name players – Premier League footballers.
“As a young kid, you always dreamed of playing in the Premier League.
“I went in there at the time and took my chance. I’ve never looked back really.
“You see some of the young lads here.
“They have come into the team, took their chance and are playing good football.”
Even though they won against Rochdale in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, arguably Preston’s best half of football came in the first 45 minutes against Notts County on the opening day of the season at Deepdale.
Wave after wave of North End attacks went without reward, as they went in at the interval 0-0. They were lucky to scrape a draw in the end as Garner’s last-ditch equaliser cancelled out Jake Cassidy’s 52nd-minute opener.
Gallagher, who saw a header at the back post saved by Roy Carroll in that 45-minute salvo, is hoping he and his team-mates can show the same sort of form against Scunthorpe but this time make the most of the chances they create.
“I’m not known for my heading ability but to be fair with the size I am, I probably should be scoring a few headers.
“John Dreyer has been telling me to get on the back stick because he believes I can score a few more headers.
“Roy Carroll made a good save and around the team, we are capable of creating chances and it’s up to us to put them away. We were a little bit disappointed that we didn’t make the most of our chances.
“We could have been three or four up at half-time if we had of done. But that’s football.
“They stuck in and ground it out. They had a lot of experienced players and it’s up to us to have the bottle when we are in those situations where teams are sitting off, to have the ball and create something.”
As attacking players go, Gallagher is pretty versatile. He can play on either wing or centrally.
He said: “Just being on the pitch is my best position but I think the manager is happy to have players who are versatile.”