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Aberdeen defender Declan Gallagher ready to put Covid and injury frustrations behind him

Scotland international Declan Gallagher in action for Aberdeen.
Scotland international Declan Gallagher in action for Aberdeen.

After a debut Aberdeen season derailed by Covid and injury, defender Declan Gallagher aims to finally show his top form.

Centre-back Gallagher arrived at Pittodrie last summer having been part of the Scotland squad at the Euro 2020 finals.

Gallagher admits he had a ‘big reputation’ when signing for the Dons after his role in Scotland’s successful Euro qualification campaign.

He had been hailed for keeping the shackles on striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Euro 2020 play-off defeat of Serbia in November 2020.

Much was expected of Gallagher.

However his Pittodrie career was derailed on day one at Pittodrie when his wife caught Covid and he had to self isolate.

It was the start of a catalogue of misfortune for the defender.

Now fully fit the 31-year-old has started both games since new Jim Goodwin arrived at Pittodrie.

Gallagher is set to retain that starting slot at Hearts tonight and is determined to repay Goodwin’s trust.

Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin with Declan Gallagher at full-time in the 1-1 draw at Motherwell.

Gallagher said: “Whether it be Covid isolating, a hamstring injury and then Covid again it’s been a stop-start season.

“I’m not used to that, I’m used to playing every week so it was tough.

“After my first training session here I had to isolate for ten days because my wife got Covid.

“From there I missed pre-season games and a fair chunk of pre-season in general so I was playing catch-up.

“Then when I did get in the team I did my hammy against Hibs.

“So that was another six to eight weeks out then Covid again just after Christmas.

“Now with a run of games I can start finding my feet in the team.

“I’m getting my match fitness up which is something I was obviously struggling with so it’s been good.

“It’s also been good that the manager has put his trust in me.”

Declan Gallagher and Dundee United’s Tony Watt in action in the 1-1 draw.

Hamstring injury then Covid setback

After the setback of having pre-season disrupted Gallagher forced his way into the team, only to suffer a hamstring injury in the 1-0 defeat of Hibs on October 21.

He was sidelined for two months… and then caught Covid during the Christmas period.

Aberdeen’s Declan Gallagher suffers an injury during the 1-0 defeat of Hibs.

Gallagher said: “It was like a bad cold and sore head.

“I wouldn’t say I was in my bed for three or four days or anything like that.

“It did take it out of me a wee bit, especially when you come back after those 10 day isolations and you try to get your breathing going again.

“There is also a protocol you have to follow in football.

“It’s hard to get back up to speed.

“It’s not just those first 10 days but the time after it as well.

“That takes its toll but other players and teams have been in the same situation.”

Signed on with a ‘big reputation’

Gallagher admits the frustration of being in and out of the team was difficult to take.

He had gone from rave reviews for eliminating the threat of Mitrovic in the Euro play-off final to watching frustrated from the sidelines with the Dons.

Fulham striker Mitrovic has scored 37 goals this season.

Gallagher said: “It was tough because you come here with the big reputation.

“A lot of people know me for the game against Mitrovic.

“You see how well he is doing compared to how my season has gone.

“I don’t have any social media and I don’t see the criticism and the bad points.

“People are always going to judge you and I need to do my talking on the park and hopefully I can do that with this run of games.

“Hopefully, I can impress the Aberdeen fans by getting results for the club.”

Scotland’s Scott McTominay (left) and Declan Gallagher celebrate after David Marshall saves Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty in the Euro 2020 play-off final win.

‘I couldn’t let my head go down’

Gallagher has made just 11 league starts in Aberdeen’s 28 Premiership games so far this season.

He has started less than half the Dons games, with just 15 starts in 37 matches.

The defender refused to get downhearted or angry as it would be to the detriment of the team dynamic.

Aberdeen’s Declan Gallagher (L) and Celtic’s Daizen Maeda.

He said: “It’s hard when you are not playing but the manager has stressed we are a team and it’s not just individuals.

“Everybody needs to be together and in the dressing room.

“I couldn’t let my head go down or let boys see I was angry and frustrated because I wasn’t playing.

“There’s a great group of boys here and we have each others’ backs.

“It’s a great place to be and to play football.”

Criticism for Aberdeen defenders

Aberdeen defenders have come in for criticism this campaign having registered just five clean sheets in 37 games in all competitions.

Manager Goodwin recently said his centre-backs had received unfair criticism and came out in their defence.

Celtic’s Reo Hatate (L) and Aberdeen’s Declan Gallagher in action.

Gallagher said: “I’m not on social media so I haven’t really seen too much about it.

“However, at the end of the day if you concede goals you are going to get stick as a defender.

“You want to win and the fans want you to win so if we get criticised for mistakes so be it.

“Sometimes people can be a wee bit too critical of defenders but our job is to stop giving goals away.”

One victory could change everything

Aberdeen will tonight travel to Hearts in the hunt for a first Premiership win of 2022.

In nine league matches since the turn of the year the Reds have yet to win.

Yet despite that form the Reds, languishing in ninth, are just three points behind Hibs in fourth.

Gallagher reckons a win tonight could re-ignite the league campaign.

Ilmari Niskanen and Declan Gallagher battle it out for possession in the 1-1 draw at Pittodrie.

He said: “I know a lot of people are saying it’s been a disappointing season for Aberdeen.

“But we are still just three points off fourth place.

“We have to keep that in mind amongst the noise going around about how bad a season it’s been and everybody else is having a great one.

“One victory can change things given how tight it is between a pack of teams in the league right now.”