Match of Yesterday: Grant Gallagher
GOALS, celebrations, iconic moments – key incidents stick in the mind of football fans and players despite weeks, months and even years passing.
Whether it is a last minute goal, derby day delight, giant-killing or something much more personal, there are games which fans can recall every detail from, even years down the line.
In the eighth of our new series – Match of Yesterday – we ask Grant Gallagher for his favourite game during his time with the Blues.
The midfielder rejoined the club earlier this summer and will be looking to build on his 209 appearances from his first spell. Gallagher scored nine goals during his first spell with the Stair Park club.
Q: What is the match?
Grant: The one that always springs to mind is probably not even a big, massive game but it was away at Somerset Park. We beat Ayr United 2-0 and I scored the first goal. I think it was the 2014/15 season (September 13, 2014) and it must have been towards the start of the season because I remember it was one of those sunny days. It was feeling like the start of the season, if you know what I mean. It is one of those games that always sticks in my mind.
Q: What other matches did you consider?
Grant: The obvious one would be Rangers away when we got a draw there, which was superb (December 26, 2013). The same season as the Ayr United game, the 2014/15 season, I think we had a 5-1 win against Dunfermline Athletic (February 28, 2015). The reason I remember that game – I scored in that one as well – is that I played right wing that game for some reason. Sean Winter must have been injured that day and I was wearing number 7 and I was the right winger. I scored, so, that always sticks in my mind. Obviously, beating Ross County 3-2 as well (August 27, 2013) would be another one.
Q: If we look at the Ayr game, what do you remember about the build up to the game? Was there anything in particular?
Grant: There was not really anything in particular but as I say, I remember it being right at the start of the season because of the weather. It must have been one of the first away games because after the game I remember the media reported it as ‘a shock result’. I’m guessing that maybe at the start of the season, as usual, Stranraer had been kind of tipped to maybe not do as well as we did that season. Ayr were probably one of the teams who thought they were going to do well. I think in the morning I remember reading that it was going to be a comfortable game for Ayr. That day, we obviously beat them 2-0 so it worked out for us.
Q: When you see things like that and it says it is going to be a comfortable game for Ayr and Ayr are among the favourites, does that fire you up that little bit more?
Grant: One hundred per cent. I don’t remember a season when I was at Stranraer when we were tipped to do this or to do that. It always seems to be that we will be down the bottom or just mid-table. I think that always helped us in the seasons that I was there certainly. It would spur us on because we always seemed to overachieve, if you want to call it overachieving, because of the way the media reported how badly we would do. So, yes, that definitely helps.
Q: In terms of the game itself, what do you remember about it?
Grant: I think because it was at the start of the season, it was a very fast tempo game. Everyone has just got up to match sharpness. The goals I remember quite well. I scored the first and Jammer (Jamie Longworth) scored the second, I think. For my goal, Ayr have cleared the ball and I’m sure Frank McKeown has just knocked the ball down to Stephen Stirling, who was playing alongside me in the middle in that game. Steph has taken two touches and reversed it to me and I think I took maybe two touches and hit it. It was a good distance out, maybe 25 yards or something, and it has gone in. The second goal, I set up Jammer for that as well. I think we broke away from their corner or their shot and I have actually sprinted the whole length of the park and Danny Stoney has slipped me in. Then, I have passed it on to Jammer and Jammer being Jammer has gone round the goalkeeper and tapped it in. It was a good day.
Q: With all due respect – and I hope you don’t take offence at this – does it stand out a wee bit more because you scored? You are not somebody who was renowned for scoring goals I would say.
Grant: I think so and plus it was a good goal – I’m not going to take that away from myself! I think they are the easiest games to remember when you are scoring goals. I think when we played Ayr as well the games used to always stand out. I think there was something between the two clubs. We were always trying to outdo each other and those games always stood out for me.
Being local as well, I actually remember three of my mates went to the game. That was good to see but when I celebrated in the corner I never knew that you could see them celebrating as well. I never even noticed them! It is only when I have watched it back that I have noticed how close they are to me celebrating. You don’t even notice those things when you are on the pitch. They were saying to me after the game ‘did you not see us?’ and I did not even see them.
Q: I take it they were amongst the Stranraer fans?
Grant: Aye, they were in the away end that day with Stranraer fans.
Q: You mentioned about the rivalry between Stranraer and Ayr. I’m sure Ayr fans will say their natural rivals are Kilmarnock and Stranraer fans will say their rivals are Queen of the South but the way the leagues tend to be most of the time does it become more of a rivalry despite it not being the closest clubs?
Grant: I think it was. I think we always came up against each other just because of the way the leagues fell. I think the games against each other, because we were usually two good matched teams and the games in the past have always been good, high-scoring games but also very close, gritty games and I think it has always just stuck in people’s minds. We kept a good nucleus of a team over those years so it seemed to be whenever we played them that those games would stick in people’s minds. It became a bit of a battle.
Q: As you touched on, you are from that neck of the woods. Does it make it that little bit sweeter when you get a win, particularly when you get a goal as well?
Grant: It does. I always remember the Ayr fans singing about how much they hate Kilmarnock so if you are from Kilmarnock and you score against them it makes it a wee bit better.
Q: In terms of the game, obviously, as you said, you scored. Did Ayr come back into it? Were they trying to get the upper hand to get back into it?
Grant: I think so. I remember David Mitchell having to make some good saves as well and he actually played really well. It was just one of those games where everything seemed to click. Everyone had a good game. It was one of those games where you could not pinpoint anyone as having played badly. It was a good team performance and because it was the 2014/15 season that was the season we finished second. The game sticks out because it was so early in the season and it probably kicked us off in terms of Ayr being favourites to do something and we have gone and beaten them. We have kicked on for the whole season and obviously that season we did finish second. In the same season, I collected my 200th appearance as well so it was quite a big season for me. It was probably the most enjoyable season I have had at Stranraer.
Q: As you say, it was early in the season but when you get a result like that does it give you a real confidence boost and set you up for the season ahead?
Grant: Yes, definitely. Especially, if they are the ones that are being tipped to go on and do something in the league and you go are beating them 2-0. You beat them early doors in the season when they are fresh and they have got a new squad then I think it definitely sets the tone for where we should have been. It only took us until that second last game of the season when Morton beat us at home (to see Stranraer come off the top of the table). So, it certainly helped.
Q: In terms of after the match, what is the dressing room like after you have won a game like that?
Grant: It is always good but as I say when it is a team that is tipped to do things boys will come up to you and say we should be achieving this and that and the confidence grows. It just really did set us off. It always happens like that when a team that has been tipped to do something. Even if it had been a draw that day I can guarantee we would be saying that we can beat teams like this and achieve something.
Q: It turned out to be your farewell season in your first spell at the club. How much of a downer was it to get so close and to just stumble at the finishing line?
Grant: It was hard to take; it was really difficult. I came off injured in the Morton game (after 32 minutes and with the score at 0-0) with a knee injury and so I watched the team get beat 2-0 on the day. I think we were away to Brechin on the last day of the season and it was a nothing game because Morton had to lose and we had to win something daft like 6-0. It was really, really hard to take and I think we never really recovered from that in the play-offs either. We went straight out in the first round against Forfar. It was really, really hard to take coming that close.
Even the season before that, we were still in the play-offs but could never get over the final hurdle. To be the team, if we had won automatic promotion it would have been an absolutely amazing achievement. It has always stuck with me and here’s hoping now that I’m back we can go the full way.
Q: As you say, that was your last game. When you moved on to Dumbarton and moved on to Airdrie, did you keep an eye out for Stranraer despite the changes over time?
Grant: I did because I spent a long time there. Most weekends it was always one of the scores that I would check. It is a club close to my heart. Obviously, when you spend that long at a club, if you are in the same league you still want to see them do well but it is kind of hard. It is definitely one of the scores I would always look out for.
Q: Back at the club now and looking forward to getting down to it again?
Grant: Definitely. Training has been pretty tough and it seems as if Stevie Farrell has got most of the players that he wants. I’m sure he would like one or two more in just to bulk up the squad but it is good that he has got his squad assembled and everybody is getting to know each other. He kept the boys that he wanted to keep and he has brought in experience like myself and Scott Robertson is back as well. So, I’m looking forward to it.
Q: I must admit if I was a betting man I knew the Ibrox game would be up there in terms of your choices. The other one I kind of thought about was the replay at Auchinleck Talbot when you scored in that one.
Grant: Do you know what? I even forgot about that one! I still would not pick that but well remembered – my memory is shocking! There are still pictures at Stair Park. Maybe it is because there are pictures at Stair Park of a lot of games over the years. I’m pretty sure there is a picture of me celebrating the goal at Ayr with Willie Gibson in the corner. It must just be in the back of my mind. I always walk about the stadium thinking ‘I remember that day’.
Stranraer: Mitchell, Robertson (Longridge 16), Rumsby, Pettigrew, McKeown, Gallagher, Gibson (Russell 79), Stirling, Stoney, Marenghi (Winter 73), Longworth.
Not used: Aitken, Forde, McCloskey and Tobin.
Ayr United: Hutton, Devlin, Campbell, Murphy, Donald, Gilmour (Beattie 65), Forrest, McLaughlin, McGovern, McGill (Trialist 54), Donnelly (Shirkie 79).
Not used: McArthur, Muir, McKenzie and Newman.