JACKIE GALLAGHER has travelled the world playing football but home will always be Fenland Park for Wisbech Town's favourite son.
So it is quite appropriate that Gallagher who celebrated his 50th birthday earlier this month, will grace the Fenland Park pitch again this Saturday in the final game of the season.
There is little doubt that his appearance on the pitch in the latter stages of the game is sure to bring the loudest cheer heard at the ground for some time.
And he is in good form, scoring last week for Posh Legends in a game at London Road.
It is 35 years since Gallagher first played at Fenland Park in a youth cup final for Guyhirn against Wisbech. He finished on the losing side but impressed the Fenmen youth manager Bert Rosebery enough to have him switch clubs.
Just over a year later Gallagher made his first team debut for the Fenmen in a County Cup final against Willingham when he came on a substitute in the first away leg which finished 2-2. He started in the second leg at Fenland Park and scored in the 5-1 win.
That was really the start of the local lad’s love for the Fenland Park stadium and he said: “It was a great atmosphere that night and nothing I had ever witnessed before as a young lad and we had some pretty good players in the side then.”
In 1976 he left for Lincoln City with another young local lad Duncan Wiles under the manager of Graham Taylor, who later became the England manager. But he made only one league appearance and and after a spell with King’s Lynn was back at Wisbech for a short spell before moving to Peterborough United in 1980.
Gallagher then went on his travels with spells in Hong Kong, Torquay, Ireland and Sweden as well as a host of local clubs and another spell at Posh and Wolves.
In all he has five spells at Wisbech and there have been many highlights among the 500 plus appearances for the club.
“The night games have always been special at Wisbech as the atmosphere was so brilliant but obviously the two Vase semi-finals were memorable too.
“I do not think they will create the same atmosphere at the new ground, it will never be quite the same. Even the dressing rooms where some great players even internationals have come and gone give you a buzz.
“People have stood at the same spot at Fenland Park games for years and I had a good rapport with the fans but there was one fan who really did get on my back but he paid his money and was entitled to his views.”
Gallagher’s house now backs on to the ground and he even had a gate put in his fence for easy access to the ground so he will miss that at the new ground.
Gallagher has been back at Wisbech for almost the last 15 years and was manager at Fenland Park for a year in 2003 and his last match for Wisbech Reserves was in 2005. During this time he has also managed the reserves and is now in charge of the youth team.
He added: “It is great that Roy is back in charge at this time and we have a squad of mainly local lads who have done so well this season. But the training has changed a bit since I started when you ran 20 laps of the pitch as the warm-up with Eric Porter and Roy out in front.”
There has certainly not been a better ambassador for Wisbech Town. And the the fans have certainly welcomed him to their hearts over the years.
For present Wisbech manager Roy McManus there are many happy memories from Fenland Park beginning 46 years ago when he was a ball boy when the legendary Jesse Pye was playing.
His best moment came as a player in the 1971-72 season when he made his debut for Wisbech against Yarmouth.
“I scored on my debut with a diving header.
“It was the first goal and we went on to win 5-0 and I think I only ever scored one other goal with my head.
“The two FA Vase semi-finals were special as well especially the game against Halesowen. I will be gutted when they close the ground down.
“I have tremendous memories and had some wonderful times at Fenland Park as a player and manager.”
A host of former players are expected at Fenland Park on Saturday with a reunion on the pitch at half-time.
They will include at least three players from the 1950s team run by Oscar Hold with Ray Robson, Terry Marshall and Eric Porter due to attend.