With all the talk of Mason Mount over the past few weeks, Chelsea supporters may be forgiven for not noticing the exploits of another young midfielder who started the season in a similarly rich vein of form.
Conor Gallagher was loaned out to Charlton Athletic at the start of the season with the Blues hoping that he could step up to the mark at senior level after excelling in the academy. So far, he has certainly proven he has up to the task.
With three goals and two assists in just six appearances, the 19-year-old has helped the Addicks to second in the Championship table, surprising many pundits who saw them as relegation fodder. In an interview with the FA, Gallagher says it has been a dream start:
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start at Charlton to be honest. We’ve played six games, we haven’t lost yet, we’re second in the league and I’ve scored a few goals and assisted a couple. We were probably favourites to come last I think, so to start the way we have is great and I’m just hoping we can carry on.”
What’s noticeable about Gallagher is that he has an authority on the ball. He is not satisfied with passing safely, he will distribute diagonal balls to the wings, get forward into the box and take responsibility.
He isn’t afraid of a challenge either, and despite only recently getting his first taste of regular first-team football at senior level, he is prepared to throw his weight around, shield the ball and offload it to his teammates.
Some players can shrink when they are taken out of the protected environment of Cobham but Gallagher says he is excited to be playing outside of the bubble, and he credits Charlton boss Lee Bowyer for getting him ready for the rigours of senior football.
Being a midfielder himself, who played in a similar box to box role, Bowyer could well be the perfect mentor for the young Chelsea star. Gallagher revealed last month that he had a number of loan offers in the summer but he chose a move to the Valley because of what he heard about the club and its manager:
“I had a few different loan options but I felt Charlton was best for me because I like the way they play. I think it suits me very well and also I feel like I could play a big part of their season in terms of playing minutes.”
“I haven’t worked with Lee Bowyer for long but he seems very calm about his job however gets his point across very well. He’s already helped me in terms of individual advice which is great.”
With Charlton’s owner looking to sell up, it has meant that they have really had to focus on their academy and young players to progress the club, meaning Gallagher is in the ideal place to develop and flourish.
It’s the same type of environment that manager Frank Lampard encouraged when he was at Derby County last season. Mount’s experience from his time at Pride Park could well be mirrored by Gallagher’s at the Addicks.
He has made a fantastic start to life out on loan, and if he can build on it throughout the rest of the campaign, Lampard may well see a place for him in the first-team squad next summer.