Paul Gallagher has been through it all in the first half of the season. He’s had concussion, nerve based hamstring problems and then shingles… all limiting his game time.
However, having got fully fit his return to the side coincided with the excellent run of form since the beginning of November, in which time he has passed 500 career appearances and 200 in a lilywhites shirt.
Reflecting on the early stages of the campaign, he admitted to The One And Only, that it had been a difficult time: “I would go as far as saying it was the most frustrating first part of the season I have ever had in my career,” he told the matchday programme when sitting down at Springfields this week.
“Not knowing what was wrong with me, thinking to myself ‘surely, I can’t go downhill this quick,’ losing fitness and a bit of sharpness, but I have always had a football brain and that is probably how I have gone through my career – using my brain more than my pace!
“When I was diagnosed with shingles I was a little bit worried because I didn’t know what it was or how it would impact me. But the doctor explained it and when you put two and two together I realised what the problem was. It was good to get that out of the way and I had a tight hamstring, which was frustrating me. I was training, and I could feel it, so it was difficult.
“The lads got off to a great start, probably one of the best starts we have had to a season, and when you look around the changing room, other players have really stepped up to the mark. We had a little patch where we struggled, but if you look at a football club that have eight defenders out at one time, it is going to really effect you.
“As good teams do we have managed to come through it and we went on a nice run leading up to the Christmas period. I could not see us losing the Middlesbrough game, we played so well in the first half and nobody would have complained if we were three or four up at half-time. I remember Stewart Downing saying to me in that game that he had no idea how they were winning the game, but that’s football for you.
“It was good to get straight back to winning ways at Wycombe and hopefully we can start another run. To go nine or ten games unbeaten is phenomenal in any division. To go that long unbeaten is very difficult and we’ve come out with credit, the lads never got carried away and they kept taking every game as it came.”
Sitting in a position just off the Play-Off places, the North End No.12 thinks the team are in a good position to strike as they head into the long run for home.
“You have always got something to look up to and strive towards,” he continued. “The teams up there know there is a group behind that can take off on a run and take over their place. It was disappointing against Middlesbrough knowing we had played so well and we could have gone into the Play-Off places. But, we can come under the radar, take each game as it comes, attack the games and try and get the points.
“There will be other teams that will have a sticky patch like we did, but we bounced back, rolled our sleeves up and got past it.
“We have got a good team spirit, which we have had for a while.
“The new lads have bought into it well and the manager always says there is a great togetherness here. It is one of the best team spirits that I have played in and it can take you a long way with the quality that we have also got.
“When you have a manager praising his players to the hilt, it really makes you stick your chest out saying, ‘I am good enough to play at this level and higher.’
“No matter who is in our way, how much they’ve spent or what players they have got, we believe what we are doing is right and the players are buying into it.
“The recruitment has been very good, we have brought in young and hungry players to mix in with the experienced players. Both Louis Moult and Billy Bodin look good additions to us and they have settled in very well. The manager is not afraid to tell other teams how good we are and for me that’ is a good thing.”
There’s much more from Gally, plus all the regular interviews and features, including content with Billy Bodin, Louis Moult, Tom Clarke and much, much more all in Saturday’s 100 page edition of The One And Only.
The official matchday programme will be on sale from the Sir Tom Finney ticket office from Friday afternoon and then from inside and outside the stadium on matchday for just £3, don’t miss out!