PNE ace steps back in time for derby

Paul Gallagher is congratulated after scoring at Charlton last month
Paul Gallagher is congratulated after scoring at Charlton last month
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Paul Gallagher has revealed that some of his early steps in the footballing world came at Preston North End as a nine-year old.

Although it is well documented that he spent a decade on the books of Blackburn – the visitors to Deepdale this weekend – the midfielder was briefly on PNE’s books before that.

“Not many people know that I was at Preston when I was nine,” Gallagher said.

“I played in a game, scored a hat-trick and signed a one-year contract.

“Unfortunately I did not have the transport to get here because my mum and dad didn’t drive.

“It was difficult getting over to Preston from Blackburn, I was having to rely on other people.

“I probably played a couple more games for Preston and also carried on playing for my Sunday League team, Blackburn Eagles.

“Derek Langley, a Blackburn scout, saw me playing and invited me for a trial.

“At the time I didn’t tell them that was I was signed up to Preston.

“I went down to the trials, did well, and Blackburn wanted me to sign for them.

“It was then that my dad had to tell them that I had signed for Preston and had 10 months left on the contract.

“Had I played for Blackburn, it would have cost them £10,000.

“What I did was to carry on playing for my Sunday League team and then I went back to Blackburn the following year.

“Blackburn kept their word and I signed for them. I was there until I was 25.”

Saturday’s local derby will see Gallagher face Rovers for the first time since he left six years ago.

He made 26 starts in their colours and 48 appearances off the bench.

Gallagher, 31, has played considerably more for Preston in two different spells.

He spent time on loan with North End in 2007 and returned to Deepdale two years ago.

The first 18 months of that return was on loan from Leicester, before he signed permanently in the summer.

Said Gallagher: “This game obviously means a lot but my only focus is on trying to help Preston win the game.

“I was at Blackburn a long time and have a lot of friends who support them. I’ve been itching to play against Blackburn since I left and hopefully that chance will come this weekend.

“Once I cross that white line, all friendships and memories of my time at Blackburn will go out of the window.

“I played quite a lot of games for them before going out on loan.

“It is usually the other way around, with you going out on loan to get experience before coming back to play.

“Graeme Souness threw me in quite early on, before I then went out on loan a few times.

“I hit double figures of goals when out on loan and always went back thinking that I might get my chance at Blackburn.

“But with the calibre of players they had at the time, it was difficult to get back in.”

Gallagher’s first loan spell 
away from Rovers was with PNE in the first half of the 2007/08 season.

He came during Paul Simpson’s time in charge, Alan Irvine then taking over from Simpson.

This week, Irvine joined the coaching staff at Blackburn as No.2 to new boss Paul Lambert.

“Alan took over as manager here when I was on loan back in 2007,” said Gallagher.

“He was a good manager with good man-management skills.

“I remember the first session he took charge of, we were doing some shooting and nothing was going in.

“Alan was charging around getting the balls back from the other field!

“He tried to sign me when the loan came to an end but for some reason it didn’t happen.”

North End will be looking to extend their six-game 
unbeaten run when they tackle Rovers.

Gallagher has skippered the side in five of those matches, and was handed the armband in the absence of the injured Tom Clarke. He has thrived in the role and is happy to continue doing it for as long as is required.

“It was a surprise to get it in the first place,” said Gallagher.

“We have a lot of leaders in our dressing room and there were others who had been skipper in the past.

“I feel I am quite vocal on and off the pitch and I’m happy to pass on my experience.

“It was a proud moment when I was given the armband and I’ve really enjoyed the role.

“When Tom comes back from his injury, he is the skipper .

“But I’ll continue to be a leader and help out.

“We are a close-knit bunch here who watch each other’s backs, regardless of who wears the armband.”

The last five games have also seen Gallagher in a deeper midfield role than usual.

He said: “I actually played in that role quite a few times for Leicester in training games but never in a competitive game.

“I like to get on the ball and going a bit deeper helps me to do that.

“In home games it can be a bit more difficult because the other team see you as a threat and can try to man-mark you.

“It is up to me to move the opposition around, get on the ball and get it forward.”