Experienced PNE midfielder is winning his fitness battle

Preston North End's Paul Gallagher
Preston North End's Paul Gallagher

Alex Neil is pleased to have Paul Gallagher approaching full fitness after an injury and illness hit campaign for the Preston midfielder.

Gallagher has stepped-up his training of late and PNE boss Neil says the 33-year-old has plenty to offer.

A tight hamstring during pre-season was the start of his problems, it restricting the amount of work he could do.

During the defeat at Derby in August, Gallagher took a bang to the head and suffered concussion.

Then soon after his return to action last month, he went down with a bout of shingles.

Neil told the Post: “It has been a bit stop-start for Paul this season.

“He had a bit of a niggle in pre-season which delayed him getting his fitness to the levels which we needed him to have.

“Then he got the bang on the head which put him out for the best part of two weeks.

“When Paul came back from that he picked-up quite a serious illness.

“It’s not been ideal but hopefully he is over the worst now and we can get him going again.”

Gallagher has played six games this season, with only two of them starts.

The first was the League Cup defeat at Accrington Stanley, then he started last month’s Championship clash against Barnsley.

While the young average age of the Preston side has been widely talked about this season, Neil is keen to use the experience which Gallagher can offer.

“One of the things which Paul gives you is unbelievable delivery from set-pieces, he has got a quality right foot,” said Neil.

“He can slow the game down if things get frantic, he sees passes and is quality.

“They are attributes which he can bring to the team and I just need to make sure that I utilise them and use him when we need him.

“We’ve been able to get more training into him than we could do before.

“He’s certainly in a better place than he was a few weeks ago.”

Neil, meanwhile, is pleased that North End have a more spread-out schedule over the next month.

There are clear midweeks before next Saturday’s visit to Wolves and ahead of the home clash with Brentford a week later.

The Wednesday night visit of Aston Villa to Deepdale on November 1 is the one game in midweek.

Said Neil: “I much prefer Saturday to Saturday, it gives the players time to recover and to prepare properly.

“Saturday and Tuesday is more difficult, especially if both games are away.

“We’ve got away games at Fulham and Wolves and I’m glad they are both being played on a Saturday.”