With everyone away from the Oval for an undetermined period, we have decided to bring Glentoran supporters some of the most compelling content from the multi award winning Glentoran Gazette. We hope you will enjoy the stories and player interviews we bring and that it will encourage you to buy a Gazette at our home matches when football returns. Many thanks to the Glentoran Supporters Committee (1923) for use of this material. The "Team Talks" series will consist of interviews with current squad members with John Grayden this season.
interview with John Grayden
In the run-up to Christmas midfielder Chris Gallagher had his eye on one big present.
The 20-year-old fans’ favourite would love to put his name to a full-time contract at the Oval.
Chris, who spent the big day at his Lagmore home with his dad, Chris senior and mum Vicki, with a meal cooked by his Granny, admits early talks have taken place and if he was offered a new deal he would sign up without hesitation.
“I would love to get a full-time contract here. I’m happy at Glentoran, I’m enjoying myself and with everything that is going on at the club, I’d love to stay,” Chris said.
And as another member of the group of Glens players with old heads on young shoulders – he isn’t 21 until March – he is looking to his future off the park. “A deal like that might enable me to get my own place or even try to get my foot on the property ladder.”
“I lived away from home for a few years after joining Shrewsbury Town on leaving school at 16. A lot of the other trainees were from Wales or the Midlands and they were able to go home every day, but the club placed me in accommodation with another lad from Cambridge. It meant I had to grow up quickly,” he added.
And while it might have repercussions away from the game, on the field a full-time contract wouldn’t mean a big change to the club’s November player of the month.
He is the only part-time player at Glentoran who trains five times a week with the full-time cohort at the club. A pointer to his commitment is that he gave up a part time job earlier this year when it clashed with the new times of the evening sessions at the club.
The former Shrewsbury trainee, who has been with girlfriend Cliodhna from Lisburn for a year now, had been supplementing his football wages by carrying out coaching sessions for a company run by Distillery player Matt Rooney.
“I was coaching schoolkids all over Belfast from January right up until August. The sessions usually ran from 2-4pm but when our full squad sessions were brought forward to a 4pm start, I gave up the coaching job,” the Northern Ireland under-21 international said. “Giving it up meant that I could commit myself full time to the club”.
That commitment extends to scheduling extra sessions in the gym throughout the week to improve his fitness.
“I come in early a couple of times a week to work in the new fitness centre at the Oval,” Chris said. “At times it is just a limbering up exercise, at others it can mean more serious work.” It also means he now rarely uses the home gym his father installed in the family home’s garage when Chris returned to Belfast from his time in England.
The equipment was bought to aid Chris’ ambition to return to the full-time game in Britain, an aim he still harbours. “I deliberately didn’t seek a job outside of football when I came home because I would still want to make a living in the game. Apart from working in the home gym I could also be found running at the Dub at times or around the Wedderburn playing fields at Finaghy, in fact I still do a bit of that on top of my work at the Glens,” Chris said.
Even with the new regime at the Oval, Chris reckons he could be fitter still. “I reckon I’m sitting at around 80 to 85 percent of the level I was at in my time at Shrewsbury.
“Because we had no reserve team there, anyone who wasn’t in the immediate first team plans did a serious amount of running several days a week under the club’s assistant manager, Chris Doig,” he added.
The full timers in the Glens squad recently have been mimicking him by carrying out double sessions on a Tuesday. “We have been working in the gym on Tuesday mornings and then we are on the pitch at Hanwood in the evening with the rest of the squad who are still part time,” Chris said.
It’s another example of the way affairs at the Oval have changed in a short period of time. “The change at the club in the last year is like night and day,” said Chris who was brought to the club by Paul Leeman.
“Everything is so much more professional and from my own point of view, coming in most mornings, I’ve settled into a routine that is like having a real job.”
Even the changing fortunes of a footballer isn’t fazing him. “At the start of the season I was out of the team, something that is part of football and something that happened to me under Ronnie McFall last season.
“Like then, my reaction was simply to get my head down and focus on showing the management team what I could do and try to win back my place in the side.”
Footnote: This article was originally published before Cricky signed his recent contract extension.