Paul Gallagher has just completed his 15th pre-season and is looking for another positive year in a lilywhite shirt.
Speaking to PNE.Com ahead of the trip to Berkshire he admitted he had enjoyed the tests of the last month and was now ready to get underway.
“You put all the hard work in for six weeks of pre-season and it is all about being ready for the first game of the season,” he told the official website. “It is fast and furious in the first few weeks and the hard work you have done for six weeks comes to fruition now and everyone is looking forward to the first game.
“We have been preparing for nine months of hard work, you do six weeks of pre-season to try and help you stay fit for that period. As you get older, you get wiser and you use your head a lot more, whereas when you are younger you run round and try to impress. Of course, you still want to impress, but the manager knows what he is going to get from certain players with the experience and amount of games they have played, but it is still a fresh start for everyone in pre-season.
“You have to be willing to do the hard work and perform in the games, but you still use your head – there are some balls that you go for when you are younger that you probably don’t as you get older; as you realise the season is just round the corner; that said, at Bolton I went in for tackle and nearly had my leg taken off! In training in pre-season you manage things if you feel a niggle, I have managed to train every day in pre-season and I enjoy it and don’t mind doing the running, because I know we are building up for a long season.”
Last season the No.12 probably began the season expecting to play the majority of the campaign on the left hand side, however, a move in the ‘quarterback’ role in front of the back four in October proved to be a masterstroke by manager Simon Grayson, as his experienced midfielder became the glue the rest of the team was built around.
Talking about how he now starts the season 12 months on, Gally admits that the move worked well for him: “It is a role that I have enjoyed. Last season, approximately two months into the season, we changed and I played really well in the new position. The manager has got options in all different positions. With the loan window not being available this season, the squad needs to have two players for every position, so you are fighting for your place in the team. We have players who can play in a number of positions; myself, Ben Pringle and Callum Robinson can all play wide or in the middle and it gives the manager some good options.
“As for me playing deeper, I am there to do a job. It is not a free role; you have to work hard and I am learning to read the game a bit better and then trying to keep possession when I have the ball. I also have to try and create goals when I get further up the pitch, and we have players in the team who can do that.
“You have to be more disciplined in that role; it’s an important role for the team and I try and give my experience to the younger players in the team, because last year we had Alan Browne, Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson who had never played in the Championship before, so I tried to pass off my experience, so I have to be disciplined, look around and be in a position where the opposition can’t get to the ball first and keep the attacks flowing for us. When you have Bailey, Tom Clarke, Hunts and Anders behind you talking, it makes things a lot easier.
“I think we are working well as a unit – last year we hit the ground running with and we were very difficult to play against and that’s what we need to get back to, so that everyone knows we are difficult to play against. The manager has added players in the final third that can hopefully benefit us.”
As an experienced head in a midfield with a number of young players the former Leicester City man has to pass on his knowledge, whilst still learning himself, but he says he has every confidence in the ability of those younger players he will play alongside.
“The young players can take a lot of confidence from last season. A lot of them haven’t played in the competition before and if you look at their performances last year, you wouldn’t have though that; the way they performed made it look like they had been there for five or ten years,” he continued.
“In football they always say that the second year is always the toughest because teams will know how Preston play and about individual players,but good players stick around at this level because they know they have keep improving – when you stop still you get found out.
“I don’t have a problem with the players here, I believe in all of them that they can play at this level.
“The manager and owner wouldn’t have invested in them and brought them here if they couldn’t. Teams will be wary of us now after we had a good season last year, but we are confident and looking forward to the new season and we will go out and enjoy every game.
“The likes of Newcastle and Aston Villa coming in will be exciting for the fans. I have had the luck to play there before, but I am still looking forward to going back and playing there and if we can finish off where we left off last season, we can have another good season.”
In an early anomaly of the fixture list, North End head for their first away game of the season to the place they ended their away campaign in 2015/16, at Reading and Gallagher want s repeat display from their victory at the end of April.
“Hopefully we can repeat the feat and get off to a good start in the league. Last season the game at Reading was probably one of our best away performances; we should have been three of four nil up in the first half. We really dominated the game and there’s no reason why we can’t do that again.
“They have had a big change around in terms of managers and players and just lost another player in Ollie Norwood who has just gone to Brighton and that will obviously disrupt their preparations, but we have to focus on ourselves.
We know if we go there and ply the way we play, be disciplined, with the quality we have got, we can hurt any team.
“They have got a new manager, so they will be looking to go out and impress, but we have to do the same. It is important we get off to a good start. Last season we had Middlesbrough at home and got a draw and then went to MK Dons and got a win.
“The games come thick and fast at this stage of the season and if you can get a bit of momentum going early on and get a number of points on the board, it sets you up nicely for the next couple of months,” he added.