Paul Gallagher speaks about coaching at Preston North End's academy and 'giving something back' to football
For the last 18 months or so I’ve been fortunate to get the chance to coach the Under-16s age group in Preston North End’s academy.
Some of the lads from last year’s group are now scholars and I’ve got a good group this season too.
It’s been a good way to get into coaching, and them playing on a Sunday means I can be at most games unless the first-team are in for training ahead of a midweek game.
Not every lad in an academy will go on to make it – either at that particular club or as a professional footballer.
But what I tell the lads at Preston is that they should always try their best and that will stand them in good stead in life, whatever they do - be it a footballer or in another profession.
Some of the lads from the Under-16s last year have been up to train with the first-team on occasions.
What you are telling them is how the manager needs them to be when we’ve not got the ball.
When you are on the ball, it’s about the right pass and having freedom to play. But when the team has not got the ball, it’s about the defensive side of the game – where to be and when to press.
The job of the academy is to try and produce lads who can join the professional ranks and one day progress to the first-team squad.
It’s been done here with Ben Davies and Josh Earl just to name a couple.
Not being a category one or two academy does have its difficulties.
You play most of your games against clubs in the same category when really you want tests against higher ranked academies.
Our youth team has often done well in the FA Youth Cup when playing category one or two sides, Norwich and Bristol City two which spring to mind in the last couple of years.
It is that kind of test which the lads could do with on a regular basis.
Football has been good to me, this club has been good to me, and coaching helps me to give something back.
I try and speak with intelligence to the young lads, help them to try and make a career in the game.
On the first-team front, we are back in action on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday.
They have appointed Tony Pulis as manager during the international break and his style is to make sides difficult to beat.
Pulis was the manager at Stoke when I joined them on loan for a second time in January 2008 – just after my first spell at Preston.
They were going really well at the time so it was hard for me to get games.
It goes without saying that we have to improve our home form and everyone is working hard to try and make that happen.
You think back to last year when we started last season so strongly at home – beating Wigan 3-0, Stoke 3-1, Barnsley 5-1.
I do think the fact that there is no crowd plays a role. When fans were in the ground they’d urge you to get forward.
Never under-estimate how important fans are.
If we can score the first goal in a game, that would be a big help. We haven’t lost many games when we’ve scored first.
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