Preston North End midfielder Paul Gallagher is targeting joining an elite group of players, after signing a new contract with the club.
The Lilywhites’ man has played 297 times for the club since his very first loan move under Paul Simpson in 2007, meaning he is just three games away from achieving a milestone very few players have achieved in the club’s 140-year history.
From the likes of Bob Holmes in the late 19th century, through the greats of Sir Tom Finney, George Ross, Alex Bruce and record ever appearance maker Alan Kelly Senior, up to modern legends Graham Alexander and Paul McKenna – the last to reach the feat – only 24 players have made 300 or more competitive appearances for PNE.
But Gally could reach the triple-century early on in the 2020/21 campaign and it was something he was well aware of when he came to put pen to paper on his new one-year contract.
“Achieving 300 games was always a big motivation for wanting to stay, plus having played a lot of games last year, doing well, enjoying it and now we have got it across the line and done,” he told iFollow PNE.
“I enjoy being here. It will be my eighth year and I am on 297 games and I want to play in front of the fans again. I didn’t want to walk away and leave this football club without playing in front of the fans again.
“It could potentially be my last season, we don’t know, but I still feel good at the moment. I feel like I can contribute to the games and the team and that’s a big part of what I want to do.
“We have a good squad here, who are maturing every year, having played a number of games so, so I have a big role on and off the pitch. It is something I like to be involved with.”
The former Scotland international is also hoping to continue to develop his coaching skills with the Academy and is enjoying his role off the field as well as on it.
“I still hope to be involved with the U16s, I enjoyed that last year and I will continue doing that and learning about coaching, because that is something I am really interested in as well,” he continued.
“You need experienced players with knowhow and who know the standards that are set at this football club. I have been here a long time and I know what those standards are and can hopefully help get the best out of the younger players who are here and put this club in good stead.”
The 35-year-old believes it is a season to look forward to for the club: “It is big opportunity to kick on this year for the group.
“The clubs who went up, deserved to go up and the clubs coming up will be up for the challenge, but if you look at the league as a whole, we are one of a few with a group of players who have played at this level for a number of years now and that should stand us in good stead going forward.
“It was disappointing last year not to make the Play-Offs; with what has been going on in the world with the pandemic, everyone suffered and it took the momentum off a lot of teams – some came back better than others – but for the first six months of last season, I thought we were excellent.
“At the end we couldn’t quite make it, but we have to take the positives. We have to show that we are a match for any team in this division and we are looking forward to getting back out and playing, especially in front of the fans again.”
As the players returned to training in scorching conditions at Springfields, the No.12 says this year is slightly different to others, having had a much shorter break, but nonetheless, it is no easier!
“I’ve lost count of how many pre-seasons I have done, but they don’t get any easier! It has been a short turnaround this summer. Usually we get six or seven weeks off, but this time it has only been three and we are now straight back in.
“You don’t probably lose your fitness as much as you would with a longer break, but everyone has come back in good nick anyway and it was good to get the balls out straight away, get on with it and look forward to the season kicking-off.
“You’d rather play games than run every line and back. You get your match fitness in games and the manager will be sorting a lot of friendly games out before the season starts and hopefully the fans can watch again on iFollow until we get them back in.
“Like everyone in football, we want safety first, but we all want fans back in stadiums. There is no better feeling than having a crowd there and the noise when you score a goal or someone makes a tackle. First and foremost, it has to be safe and then hopefully we can get supporters back into the stadium and we can have a good season,” he added.