October 13, 2022

It was only weeks after Conor Gallagher bumped into Thomas Tuchel while out with his family at a pub in Cobham, but this time he knew exactly what he wanted to say to the Chelsea manager.

“I was trying to hide,” Gallagher laughs at the memory of their accidental first encounter. “It was funny because I saw him through the window and I whispered to my girlfriend, mum and dad: ‘My God, it’s Thomas Tuchel.’ He came in and sat on the table right next to us so he wouldn’t miss me.

Tuchel later revealed he had apologized to Gallagher for excluding him from Crystal Palace’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on the terms of his loan, although it was the 22-year-old who took over the conversation when they spoke on the phone again at the end of the season.

“I said to him, ‘I think I’m ready to play for Chelsea,'” Gallagher recalled. “I said, ‘You know that’s what I want to do.’ I have older brothers who told me if you wanted to say or ask something, just ask because managers aren’t scary. They want to talk to their players and they want to know what you think. I told him what I thought and he said what he thought and I think that was the best way to do it.

That Gallagher possesses such self-confidence will come as no surprise to anyone who saw him play for Crystal Palace last season. Eight goals in 39 energetic appearances for Patrick Vieira’s side earned him a first England cap against San Marino last November and convinced Chelsea to finally trust a player who joined their academy aged eight years old but who has not yet made a premiere. -team appearance.

Conor Gallagher's form for Crystal Palace last season earned him a call-up to England.
Conor Gallagher’s form for Crystal Palace last season earned him a call-up to England. Photography: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Gallagher acknowledges he will face a struggle to establish himself in Tuchel’s midfield after three successive seasons on loan, but is generally positive when it is suggested he has taken a gamble given that there is a World Cup around the corner.

“You can say it’s a gamble, but I feel like I’m ready to step up a gear,” he said. “If there’s a chance to be part of the Chelsea team and the team, I can’t turn it down. I feel like I have to believe in myself that I can help make this team better. and that I can show the fans and the boss what I can do.

Gallagher admits Tuchel asked him to prove himself in pre-season, starting with Chelsea’s three friendlies on their tour of the United States. “I have a lot of work to do and I have to have confidence in myself,” he says.

Palace were keen to retain Gallagher, who is full of praise for the freedom he has been given on the pitch. “I feel like the way the club was and the way Patrick Vieira was with me really helped me,” he says. “He had total confidence in me and gave me a lot of confidence from day one. I was playing every game and I had the license to do what I do best.

Whether Tuchel will be so accommodating remains to be seen, but Gallagher insists he can play in multiple positions. “He knows what I do well and what I may need to work on. He knows where is the best place to put me. I’m pretty versatile too. Everywhere in midfield I feel like I should be comfortable.

Conor Gallagher in action for Crystal Palace against Manchester United last season.
Conor Gallagher in action for Crystal Palace against Manchester United last season. Photography: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Getty Images

This could work to his advantage when it comes to World Cup selection, much like the growing English contingent at Stamford Bridge following the arrival of Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. Gallagher insists Sterling will become an instant locker room leader.

“He’s a massive signing. The experience he has in the Premier League is enormous and very important for Chelsea. I feel like what he has already achieved in his career is natural enough to make him a bit of a leader, with all the experience and advice he can give to young players. In England he speaks to younger people like me and a few others and he’s great. He makes you feel welcome. So having him in the Chelsea squad is great and will benefit us.

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Gallagher also played for the same Chelsea youth teams as Reece James and Mason Mount and wants to emulate their first-team success.

“The fans love them,” he says. “Obviously everyone knows they are world class players, but it makes it more special if they came through the academy. I grew up with them and I feel capable of doing that. But it makes it even more special that my family and I have always been Chelsea fans, and it will be a dream come true to play regularly for Chelsea and play on the pitch.

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