Alex Neil is pleased to have ‘calm head’ Paul Gallagher back in the Preston squad as they gear up for a key stage of the season.
The 33-year-old was on the bench for last week’s defeat to Ipswich after missing two games with a tight hamstring.
Although PNE’s young legs have carried them far this term, the experience which Gallagher brings is something Neil thinks is vital.
North End boss Neil told the Post: “Gally is a calm head.
“He takes the ball under pressure very well, he can see a pass and has experience.
“His interaction with the other players is very good too.
“Even though Gally is not a tough-tackling type he can lead by example.
“He certainly gets into the ear of the others and lets them know if we need more from them. Gally has been excellent for us this season, we need that experience.
“You need a balance of his type and younger lads and we have that at the moment.
“The experienced players are vital for us.”
Injury and illness meant Gallagher did not feature much in the first three months of the campaign.
But since November he has been a regular fixture in the team, often playing in a deep midfield role which gives him the time to get on the ball.
He limped off at Brentford last month with a hamstring problem, missing the games with Wolves and Aston Villa.
Neil had him back on the bench against Ipswich but did not use him – mindful of the fact Gallagher had only trained once.
“He was on the bench if we needed him for 10 minutes at the end,” said Neil.
“If it wasn’t Gally, it would have been one of the kids on the bench but for a game of that magnitude I didn’t think that would have been fair on them. I made the two changes in the first half to try and spark some life into us.
“It meant I only had one substitution left.
“We were never going to play through Ipswich because they had tightened up.
“That meant we had to go down the sides and that is why I brought Daryl Horgan on to try and do that.”
With Daniel Johnson also set to return to action after a head injury, Neil is getting more options in midfield.
He gets Darnell Fisher back from a two-game suspension next week, while striker Sean Maguire is on the comeback trail after four months out.
Tom Clarke remains out of action, the club captain’s last involvement being against Hull City a month ago.
Meanwhile, tickets are on sale for North End’s clash with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on March 17 – they cost £25 for adults, £19 for seniors, £16 for under 22s and £10 for under 16s.