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Seven-season Premier League player turns out for Sunday League side

Fans were left stunned as a seven-season Premier League player turns out for one particular Sunday League side over the weekend.

The top flight and EFL midfielder Paul Gallagher scored twice on his debut for Poppy-Mai FC, who formed to promote child cancer awareness, starting out as a charity team.

Gallagher, now aged 36, played for the Blackburn Sunday Football League outfit, helping them to a 5-2 victory against Old Function Room FC.


Gallagher made his debut as a substitute in a 2–0 win over the 2001–02 Prem champions Arsenal on the 15th of March 2003, as a replacement for Dwight Yorke. He got his first goal in a 4–0 win over Birmingham in the 2003–04 campaign. On the 21st of February 2004, in an away game against Charlton, Gallagher assisted keeper Brad Friedel to his only career goal from open play in the 90th minute. Friedel’s goal equalised the game at 2–2, but seconds later Charlton scored again through Claus Jensen and went on to win the game 3–2.

He spent almost all of the 2005–06 season on loan to Stoke, playing most of his 36 games on the left or right wing, scoring 12 goals. Against Southampton on the 15th of April 2006, he exchanged a one-two on the edge of the area with Adam Rooney before drilling home a thunderous 30-yard drive into the far top corner of the net. He was recalled by Blackburn in April 2006 with three games remaining in the Premier League season, coming on as a late sub in the final game of the season, being involved in the creation of the final goal of the game.

On transfer deadline day of August 2007, Gallagher signed a 6-month loan deal with Championship side Preston, after being linked with a return to Stoke. He scored once during his spell at Preston, scoring the winner in a 1–0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The following January, he moved from Blackburn back to Stoke on loan again until summer of 2008. Then-manager Tony Pulis however, was not impressed with Gallagher, remarking he “hasn’t done as well as the other players.”

On the 30th of August 2008, Gallagher signed on loan for the rest of the 2008–09 season with Plymouth, making his debut that same day at Turf Moor against Burnley. Although Blackburn appointed Sam Allardyce as their new manager in December 2008, the Pilgrims was allowed to keep Gallagher for the remainder of his loan. He was a huge impact for the club, scoring 13 goals in 40 league games. Gallagher was hopeful that he would secure a permanent deal with Plymouth after resigning himself to the fact that he was not wanted at Blackburn. Seeing his return to Blackburn as a fresh start, Gallagher was informed by Sam Allardyce he could yet have a future at the club.

On the 21st of August 2009, Gallagher signed a three-year deal with Leicester for an undisclosed fee. He was given the number 24 shirt, Gallagher was “delighted to be here and can’t wait to get started.” He scored his first two goals for the Foxes in a 2–0 win over Crystal Palace on 20 October 2009, coming on as a half-time substitute for Lloyd Dyer. Gallagher failed to score for 17 games before bagging a hat-trick and assisting a goal in a 5–1 win over Scunthorpe United in February 2010. Leaving the field to a standing ovation seven minutes from the final whistle, it was his first ever professional hat-trick. On the 27th of February, Gallagher scored from a free-kick in a 3–0 win over Nottingham Forest. His fine form earned him the Championship Player of the Month award for February.

On the 12th of March 2011, Gallagher produced three assists as Leicester beat Scunthorpe 3–0 at Glanford Park, earning praise from manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who believed “he is not far from Beckham in terms of his delivery of set-pieces.” He signed a contract extension with the club on the 15th of March 2011, which would last until the summer of 2015.Β  Gallagher scored two goals in Leicester’s 3–0 win over Crystal Palace at the King Power Stadium on 20 November 2011.

In September 2012, Gallagher joined Sheffield United on a month-long loan. He made six appearances for the South Yorkshire club, scoring once during a 2–1 win at Hartlepool. Despite United seeking to extend his temporary deal, Gallagher returned to his parent club in October.

On the 30th of October 2013, Gallagher re-joined former club Preston on loan until the 2nd of January 2014. Gallagher made his debut on the 2nd of November against Tranmere and then scored a hat-trick in his next game against Barnet in the FA Cup. On the 21st of April, Gallagher scored another hat-trick, this time against Shrewsbury Town. In July 2014, Gallagher again joined Preston North End on loan for the 2014–15 season. He played 59 times for North End in 2014–15 scoring 13 goals as they gained promotion after beating Swindon Town 4–0 in the 2015 League One playoff final.

After three loan spells at Preston, Gallagher completed a permanent move in June 2015, signing a two-year contract.

A notable appearance took place on Saturday the 3rd November 2018. Whilst playing away at Ipswich, Gallagher came on as a 72nd minute substitute. With his first touch, he scored a free kick. On the 75th minute, he was forced to replace the goalkeeper, Chris Maxwell, who had been sent off. His excellent performance, including a spectacular save in the 88th minute, resulted in Preston securing a much-needed away point.

Gallagher was voted Preston North End’s player of the decade 2010–2019 by fans in January 2020.

On the 10th of May 2021, it was announced that Gallagher would be retiring from football and would be stepping into the role of first-team coach at Preston, assisting new permanent head coach Frankie McAvoy, a role he had been in since late March.

Then on Sunday the 5th of September 2021, the seven-season Premier League player turns out for Sunday League side Poppy-Mai FC., scoring twice and of course one of them from the penalty spot.


2002–2009 – Blackburn Rovers – 61 games (6 goals)
2005–2006 β†’ Stoke City (loan) – 37 games (11 goals)
2007–2008 β†’ Preston North End (loan) – 19 games (1 goal)
2008 β†’ Stoke City (loan) – 7 games (0 goals)
2008–2009 β†’ Plymouth Argyle (loan) – 40 games (13 goals)
2009–2015 – Leicester City – 118 games (25 goals)
2012 β†’ Sheffield United (loan) – 6 games (1 goal)
2013–2014 β†’ Preston North End (loan) – 28 games (6 goals)
2014–2015 β†’ Preston North End (loan) – 46 games (7 goals)
2015–2021 – Preston North End – 190 games (20 goals)
Total – 552 games (90 goals)

National team
2004 – Scotland – 1 game (0 goals)

Twitter users reacted as the seven-season Premier League player turns out for a Sunday League side…

@ChippendaleDean: Madness playing with somebody of that level put a shift in and showed his class ⚽️

@djhelliwell69: No Billy big bollocks with this lad. Turned up put a shift in and blended in with rest of the lads. A credit to the Blackburn area. Loved seeing his Dad and son enjoying watching him as well #dadsarmy

@jedwardCLM: Fucking Cheat Mode that…….

@james1880_: This is unfair 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣

@RyanHoyle13: Love this. Every credit @Gally_7 πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ Back to where it all beganπŸ‘βš½οΈ

@kalbanks: Ringer of the year award πŸ†

@WreaGreenVets: Imagine… Feel like we’re the only Veterans team without an ex-pro in their ranks. Just waiting for @Charlie26Adam to answer our calls.πŸ˜‚

@dom_33: The absolute GOAT

@lukeyt98: I don’t have to imagine 🀣 was fucking grim

@gavinwillacy: That’s not fair πŸ˜‰

@migginsPNE94: Taking the act to the grassroots!! What a man!! πŸ‘ŠπŸ»βš½οΈ

@andyh61105275: Trademark pen

@Kris_2001: Gally doing what gally does best

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