December 6, 2022

Conor Gallagher produced his best performance in the Chelsea first team in the Blues’ Champions League victory over FC Salzburg

Conor Gallagher never expected life in the Chelsea first team to be easy. He also knew there would be detractors who questioned his quality and place in an expensively-assembled squad – especially after a difficult start to the campaign. Yet the academy graduate always backed himself to rise to the challenge.

“That’s football: you have highs and lows, good games and bad games,” says the midfielder after an impressive performance against FC Salzburg and his first Champions League start.

“People have their opinions on you but you just have to keep your head down, stay humble, and focus on the next game.

“I’ve always known that Chelsea is my club and I’ve always backed myself to be good enough to play in the first team. I still feel there is more to come from me. Hopefully, I can improve and affect the club and the games even more.”

Gallagher, a boyhood Chelsea supporter, joined the club at eight years old and rose through the academy ranks alongside the likes of Reece James and Mason Mount.

His ascent to the first team wasn’t as rapid as the duo and instead required spells on loan at Swansea City, Charlton Athletic, West Bromwich Albion, and Crystal Palace.

The 22-year-old made his mark at each club and proved he was ready for Chelsea. All he needed was an opportunity. That was handed to Gallagher by Thomas Tuchel in the summer as he was incorporated into the senior fold. Still, there were early difficulties to overcome.

His full debut against Leeds United proved a learning experience; Gallagher was constantly swarmed by the Whites’ midfielders and struggled to impact the game in a double six alongside Jorginho.

The following week, he was dismissed in the opening 45 minutes of a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

The turning point for the England international proved to be the departure of Tuchel and the appointment of Graham Potter as head coach.

Under the former Brighton boss, Gallagher has been given licence to play box-to-box roles in a variety of systems and that has harnessed his unrivalled energy, ability to reclaim the ball, and goal threat.

“It is brilliant and everyone has loved working with him so far,” says Gallagher. “Yes, it is different with different formations to suit the game but everyone is working their hardest for him and the club. I think people can see that with the results and performances.”

Gallagher adds: “We take it game-by-game. Every game is important and we try to do as well as we can. Everyone has had to be ready as soon as one game is finished, the next game is coming right around the corner. We’ve done that well and I hope we can continue the good run of form we are in.”

It was during his impressive loan spell at Crystal Palace last season that Gallagher broke into the England squad under Gareth Southgate.

But some felt that by remaining at Stamford Bridge this season, the midfielder was putting his place at the World Cup, which begins next month, at risk.

Yet Gallagher says the tournament in Qatar hasn’t been at the forefront of his mind in recent weeks as his focus has been firmly on establishing himself as Chelsea.

“Of course, it’s [the World Cup] important, but we’ve had a lot of games for Chelsea and I haven’t thought about it that much,” he says.

“I just want to impress the manager here as much as I can. If that’s enough to get in the squad then brilliant. If not, of course, I’ll be disappointed but I need to keep working hard and whenever I get the chance to impress as much as I can.”

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