FA Cup ‘replay’ for PNE ace Gallagher

Paul Gallagher is looking forward Arsenal's visit
Paul Gallagher is looking forward Arsenal's visit
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Preston’s forthcoming FA Cup clash with Arsenal has stirred some good memories for Paul Gallagher.

The midfielder made his debut as an 18-year-old rookie for Blackburn against the Gunners in 2003.

He finished on the winning side that day and would love for a repeat when North End meet Arsene Wenger’s men on Saturday teatime at Deepdale.

Gallagher told the Evening Post: “I came on as a sub for Dwight Yorke when Rovers beat Arsenal 2-0 in 2003.

“I was 18, training with the reserves and scoring goals for them.

“Graeme Souness has fallen out with Andy Cole, they had a bit of a bust-up.

“The day before the game, Souness sent someone over to get me from the pitch where the reserves were training.

“He told me I would be in the first-team squad the next day and for to bring my boots.

“When I arrived at the ground, my shirt was hung up in the dressing room.

“I came on for 15 minutes and should have scored when I got put through.

“But my legs turned to jelly and I fired over the bar.

“I experienced the other side of the coin when Arsenal beat Blackburn 6-2 at the Emirates Stadium.

“Blackburn took the lead but Arsenal pasted them and it was a hard time.”

Gallagher returned to action over the New Year period after five weeks out with a torn calf muscle.

He played all of the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and was a 78th-minute substitute in the 1-0 win at Burton Albion 48 hours later.

With the quick turnaround between games, North End manager Simon Grayson did not want to risk starting Gallagher in both.

The experience he provides in midfield will be key against the Gunners and he is certain starter.

Said Gallagher: “This is a great FA Cup tie for us.

“As a player, you want to play against the very best and the fans want to see them.

“Arsenal have a identity of how they play the game, 
flowing football which is easy on the eye.

“They have some fantastic players – Mesut Ozil is a World Cup winner, Alexis Sanchez is a great player.

“They have players all over the pitch who can hurt you and we have to be ready for that.

“Arsene Wenger has been there for such a long time – he’s done a great job.

“They have been a top-four side season after season and have won the FA Cup twice in recent seasons.”

Gallagher is among a number of North End players who featured in their run to the fifth round of the FA Cup two seasons ago.

They played Manchester United at Deepdale, beaten 3-1 after taking the lead with a Scott Laird goal early in the second half.

Recalling that night in February 2015, Gallagher said: “I was lucky enough to play against United two years ago.

“It was a great atmosphere, we played well and a few things went against us.

“The FA Cup produces a shock in most rounds and hopefully we can do that against Arsenal.

“What team they will play, we won’t know until an hour before kick-off.

“But whoever plays, it will be a very strong side.

“Even the young players who Arsenal have are talented lads who can handle it.”