If you’d told Preston fans in 2007 that Paul Gallagher would end up becoming a club hero, there would have been widespread bemusement.
North End took Gallagher on loan from Blackburn Rovers in 2007, when he was primarily a striker. Gallagher’s stay at Deepdale only lasted a few months, scoring once in 19 games.
12 years on from his first arrival at the club, Gallagher is an icon at Deepdale. He returned in 2013, joining on loan from Leicester City. Gallagher was key in establishing North End as a force in League One, and that was illustrated with two assists in the 2015 League One playoff final.
The striker we saw in 2007 is now a deep-lying playmaker who runs the game for North End. His reinvention has been quite remarkable, and having only shown flashes in that first loan spell, he’s now arguably the most influential North End player of the last five years.
Gallagher has been key under Alex Neil, serving as a vital experienced pro to help young players. Midfielders like Ben Pearson and Alan Browne can have only been aided by Gallagher’s know-how, and Tom Bayliss will probably benefit too.
Now 35, we all know Gallagher’s time will be coming to an end soon. Still though, he’s played in every Championship game so far this season, showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
Now, Neil has paid tribute to his fellow Scot – though the way he’s done it has seen him compared to a former Blackpool star.
Neil has told the club’s official Twitter account that Gallagher and Wes Hoolahan are the best two players he’s worked with in terms of veteran stars.
Neil called both players ‘special’, believing it’s hard to impact games in the final third at 35. Preston fans may remember Hoolahan as a Blackpool player, but Neil worked with him at Norwich, both in the Championship and the Premier League.
Hopefully, Neil can work with Gallagher in the Premier League too. That dream is fading a little, but Neil clearly knows what a great player he’s been working with for the last two years.
Just like with Hoolahan at Norwich, midfielders have been brought in, but Gallagher has been a constant. Hoolahan was Norwich’s creative force, wowing fans well into his 30’s, just like Gallagher is now. Just this once, comparing Gallagher to a former Blackpool player feels acceptable.