By Ryan Walters
Welling United’s Jake Gallagher has impressed for club and country this season and his new-found maturity could land him one of non-league football’s biggest prizes, according to England C boss Paul Fairclough.
The 21-year-old joined the Wings last summer and has made a big impact in midfield, making 30-plus appearances to help Welling to a comfortable mid-table spot in the Skrill Premier.
The former Millwall youngster’s form earned him an England C debut against Jordan U23s last month, a far cry from the days he was being sent off while on loan at Staines and the Met Police.
And next month he will battle it out with the likes of Luton Town’s ex-Wing Fraser Franks, FC Halifax’s Matty Pearson, Cambridge United’s Liam Hughes, Barnet’s Keanu Marsh-Brown and Wrexham keeper Andy Coughlin for the young player of the year prize at the National Game Awards.
But having matured as a player and improved his disciplinary record, Fairclough believes Gallagher has every chance of landing the award at the annual event, which takes place on May 13 at Craven Cottage.
“I saw Jake probably six months ago and I thought I need to have a look at this boy again from the England C point of view,” said Fairclough, who is an ambassador for the 11th National Game Awards.
“He is a young lad but now, and I use the word now, a very mature head on his shoulders and I don’t think we could have said that about him a few season ago.
“He used to have a record of getting sent off but he has been talked to and he is a real gentleman, articulate and intelligent and studies the game and analyses it really well.
“There is a rich choice of young players in the Conference, not so many goalkeepers because I think managers tend to look at senior goalkeepers, but Andy Coughlin at Wrexham has impressed me.
“He can actually caress the ball high up with one hand, bring the ball down and throw it in one movement. He is improving all the time after coming in late this season.
“I am also a big fan of Fraser and it was a great signing for Luton.
“He has got this calmness about him and this quiet authority which is great.
“And I like the infectiousness of Matty Pearson at Halifax.
“I think most managers in this league like players with loads of passion and energy and he has that in bundles.”
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