Whilst academy prospects James Ward-Prowse, Josh Sims and Sam McQueen have been shining in the first team, the fine goalscoring form of Sam Gallagher at Blackburn Rovers has been going under the radar of many Southampton fans. So, we spoke to Richard Sharpe – Blackburn Rovers writer at the Lancashire Telegraph – and Oscar Jepson – owner of Talk of Ewood – to find out more about Gallagher’s rise in form.
What were your initial thoughts when Blackburn Rovers signed Sam Gallagher on loan?
Sharpe: He came at a time when Rovers were struggling for forward options, but as he joined, aided by arrivals of Danny Graham, Anthony Stokes and Marvin Emnes, the forward line suddenly had some promise.
Highly-rated, on loan from a Premier League club, and with both top flight and Championship experience, his arrival seemed like a good fit, and that is how it has played out so far.
Jepson: In complete honesty, I was pessimistic about the signing of young Sam. I didn’t see a real reason behind it, so shortly after we had just bought two other strikers. Also, after doing research I began to become a bit wary over Gallagher after finding out about his time at MK Dons. With family trouble and a lack of goals, his time down in London wouldn’t be one to savour for him and a move to Blackburn Rovers – who had just signed a couple of experienced, first team goal-scorers – wouldn’t help him. After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that Sam would be a good third choice for us and that he could only get better. Therefore I was content with the signing in the grand scheme of things.
What are your personal views regarding Sam Gallagher’s performances this season?
Sharpe: There has been something of a burden on Gallagher for goals, given the unavailability of Rovers’ other three senior strikers at various stages of the season. That has been eased somewhat, particularly since the return of Danny Graham, but they have struck up something of a good partnership in their few outings together.
He has scored seven of Rovers’ 20 goals this season so he could have done very little else to aid their campaign.
Jepson: Sam Gallagher has been absolutely sublime this season. He hasn’t set a foot wrong in his displays and puts 110% in week after week. His pace, power, determination, finesse and desire can take him very far. I personally feel that Blackburn’s recent turnaround in form wouldn’t have been accomplished without him, his ability to dig us out of a hole when the going got tough kept us afloat and the morale reasonably high. Honestly I think we have relied far too heavily on Sam at times this season yet he has brushed that aside like it was no ones problem!
How have Rovers fans taken to Gallagher?
Sharpe: They have – but that has certainly been helped by his goal return. He’s not afraid to put himself about, and has also shown he has a discipline to play different roles away from home when needed, not least against Newcastle last weekend where he often found himself in more of a number 10 role.
Jepson: Unquestionably. Gallagher is a fans favorite. We even resurrected a Blackburn classic song of ‘Ooh Aah Gallagher’ previously used for Kevin Gallacher. A lot of fans have noticed his importance to the side and with him getting on the score sheet as often as he has, he wasn’t going to go un-noticed! Now, i’m 100% sure if you asked for a Rovers fans opinions on Sam, not a single one would be negative.
What weaknesses has Gallagher shown?
Jepson: I feel like I am being a bit bias here but, none! He was raw towards the beginning of his loan spell – offside too often – but now he has everything; Pace, skill, defensive work-rate, attacking work-rate, strength, headers, finesse, you name it, Gallagher has it. There isn’t much I can say other than: No! He has it all!
Would you want to keep Gallagher beyond the current loan spell if possible?
Sharpe: Owen Coyle has already made it clear that he would like to keep Gallagher beyond his loan spell, but unless he is reclalled, or Southampton look to move him to another club, then having him signed up until the end of the season already gives Rovers some security.
Gallagher has always been tipped for bright things, so whether he feels now is the right time to leave Saints I’m not sure, particularly given his comments here
But if he did, he wouldn’t be short of suitors.
Jepson: Of course! I was thinking about this the other day, if he goes back to Saints and isn’t close to the first team, in my opinion he needs another loan. He has only had one good season of senior level and more goals and confidence will do him the world of good. Again, I might be being bias but, Rovers is the best option for him. If we stay up, which i’m pretty confident we will, coming back to Blackburn where he has good memories, he is comfortable and knows well enough is a lot better to a whole new start. So yes, i’d do anything to get him at Rovers permanently.
And finally, do you feel believe that Gallagher is currently playing at a suitable level, or do you believe that he could show his talent in the Premier League?
Sharpe: He’s still only 21, and will undoubtedly get better as he gets older, but to continue his development, he must continue to get games under his belt. He’s started 14 of Rovers’ 18 games this season, and come off the bench in the other three, and that’s clearly aiding his development.
Given his build, and his ability in front of goal, as well as being at a club who has shown faith in their young players, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him flourish in the Premier League.
Jepson: Gallagher certainly has all the qualities to get in the prem. If you look at your lad, Josh Sims, and how well he has fitted into the side then Gallagher can do it no doubt. He isn’t bullied either. Some of the battles he has had with some of the best Championship centre backs; Ciaran Clark, Chancel Mbemba, Magnusson, Danny Batth and Matt Mills, in which he has mostly won are exceptional to watch, he is a real talent across the board.