BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace’s Conor Gallagher has revealed to the South London Press what it was like watching from the bench against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
As part of his loan deal from the west London club, Gallagher was not given permission to play by his parent club in the clash. The England international was forced to watch from the sidelines as second-half strikes from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount sealed a 2-0 win for the Blues at Wembley.
“It was quite difficult to watch,” said Gallagher. “I got over the fact that I wasn’t playing, but watching the game I was just wanting to be on the pitch and to be playing. You always feel part of it even when you’re not playing and not in the squad.
“You still want to be part of it [but] it was an amazing occasion for the club to be at Wembley and play in the semi-final. It’s still great to be here and to support the lads.
“I’m proud of the boys, It was a good game to watch. Chelsea played well and they were the better team on the day.
“We have done well to be here. We know we probably could have done better today. The game, it’s such small details, if we go 1-0 up then it could be a whole different game. It wasn’t meant to be today. We just have to dust ourselves off and go again on Wednesday.”
Wednesday sees the Eagles travel to Newcastle for the first of their remaining seven games of the season.
“Exactly – absolutely,” said the attacking midfielder when asked about if the squad focus is now on a top-10 Premier League finish after the Wembley heartache. “There’s not many games left and we want to finish as strong as possible.
“Now, we’re just thinking against Newcastle. I want to play well and help the team as much as I can and hopefully score a couple more goals. I just want to finish as strong as possible.”
The season has been a breakthrough for Gallagher, who came through the Chelsea academy and has cemented himself in the Palace side and earned a call-up to the England senior side.
And the 22-year-old took time to credit Eagles boss Patrick Vieira with his ongoing development and that of the squad too.
“He was a great player, a top player – I’ve learned a lot from him,” said Gallagher. “He’s been amazing with me, he’s given me a lot of confidence. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the manager. He’s done a great job, he’s got us playing good football. The club was a family club before but it feels like that a lot since I’ve come here. It’s amazing. Everyone’s comfortable, confident and knows their worth in the club, it’s great.”
While fans in SE25 will be hoping both Chelsea and Palace can come to an agreement which will see Gallagher stay longer at the club after his loan deal expires in May, the player was quick to shoot down any chat on his decisions for next season.
“I’m literally just focusing on the end of the season. There’s a few games left and that’s the most important thing right now.
“Playing in games like this – the semi-final of the FA Cup at Wembley – is what everyone wants to do in their career, everyone wants to play in these games.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t do that today [but] I’m hoping they’ll be other occasions. To be honest, I’m not thinking about Chelsea, I’m at Crystal Palace for the rest of the season. I’m not thinking about next season. I’m just thinking about the end of this season.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD