An interview with Jon Gallagher, by Callum McFadden for WFi.
You are currently playing for Austin FC having signed for the club in 2021. What has your time at the club been like so far?
“It’s been amazing. I had never been to Texas before prior to signing for the club so I was excited to see what life would be like here.
“My move happened because I was traded to the club. The way that works is via a phone call to tell you the news that you have been traded then off you go.
“I was sceptical when I arrived about the attitude towards football in Texas as the Houston and Dallas sides do not have the biggest following.
“However, there was no need for my scepticism because as soon as I arrived, it was clear that the people of Austin were incredibly passionate about their team.
“We sell out every game and the community is engrossed in all that we do. Our stadium is fantastic and our fans create a great atmosphere. It is a great club to play for and an exciting place to play.”
Who are the big characters in the dressing room at the club?
“Sebastián Driussi is a funny guy and a special talent.
“He probably gets away with the most because he is the best footballer at the club (laughs).”
You recently changed positions to establish yourself as the club’s starting left fullback. Can you talk me through this transition?
“I have played most of my career as a winger and I am a hard-working, energetic player who likes to press the opposition.
“Therefore, when I was moved to full back, I approached it with an open mind and lots of enthusiasm.
“The only thing that I needed to work on was my spacial awareness in terms of what was behind me because as a winger, I would always have a full back behind me to protect me defensively whereas now I am the fullback.
“The coaching staff were great at working with me and giving me the time to grow in that position.
“Once I got in at left back, I have not looked back.”
You scored the club’s first-ever goal at the Q2 stadium. That must be a cool milestone to have to your name.
“It is such a cool experience and it is something that the fans always speak to me about if I meet them in the city. That is really nice.
“I love when fans tell me about their experience of being in the stadium that night when I scored the first goal at the new ground.
“It was a special moment for myself and for the football club. I feel honoured and blessed to be the player who scored that goal.”
Your strong form and respect at the club led to you signing a new long-term contract at Austin. What do you hope to achieve with the club going forward?
“Our aim is to win trophies. We have a strong group of players and continual improvement is the aim.
“The club deserve success because the staff work tirelessly and the backing we have from the fans is phenomenal. Lifting silverware is the aim for us.”
You started your professional career at Atlanta United. How do you reflect on your time there?
“It was a good time but also an up and down time for me, to be honest.
“I started with the reserve team and I gained a lot of experience there as a young player having joined the club from the college setup.
“I will always be grateful to the club for giving me a platform to grow and to experience MLS for the first time.”
You joined Aberdeen on loan in 2019. What was your experience of Scottish football like?
“My time at Aberdeen was an experience, to say the least. I’m honest enough to admit that there were good moments and low moments.
“The first few games I played for the club, I was deployed on the wing in the Europa League qualifiers.
“That was a surreal experience for me as I had just arrived from Atlanta United’s reserve team playing in front of near-empty stadiums to then walking about at Pittodrie in front of nearly 20,000 fans.
“The intensity of the fans will always stay with me. I started my Aberdeen career well then my position in the team changed due to a few injuries at the club.
“I was deployed as a central midfielder which is a position that I had not played in regularly before. That was a challenge in itself but I always gave my best for the club.
“Derek McInnes trusted me in that position due to my versatility but I struggled with the pace of the game in the central area of the pitch. I was not used to playing there and it was hard learning curve.
“As low as things got for me, it made me tougher as a player and it was a great learning experience for me in my career.
“We were competing for 3rd place in the Scottish Premiership and we were competitive in most of the games that we played in.”
You worked under Derek McInnes while at Aberdeen. What was he like to work with?
“I enjoyed working with Derek and his assistant Tony Docherty. He was one of the best man managers I have worked with.
“His way of coaching was different to what I was used to the US. He was intense and would tear into you if he had to. I experienced that more than most in that season (laughs).
“I enjoyed working with him and I wish him and Tony all the best in their new challenge at Kilmarnock.”
How would you compare football in MLS and the Scottish Premiership?
“That is a question that I am asked a lot. People in MLS will always say that MLS is better whereas people in Scotland will passionately defend the SPFL.
“In my opinion, both leagues are very different stylistically and most players will be able to adapt to one league more easily than the others.
“The football in Scotland is ferociously quick and very physical. You do not have a lot of time on the ball and the game is less tactical than what I have experienced in MLS.
“Teams in Scotland are also not averse to playing direct football, so you always have to be ready to compete physically as well as technically.
“On the other hand, football in the MLS is very technical. Teams set out to play with the ball on the ground due to the level of the players in the league.
“We have many players from South America playing in MLS and they want to play to their strengths which is by being on the ball dictating play.
“At Austin, we value possession and we want to be in control of games. Passing and movement are important and that suits my game.
“A big challenge over here is the weather, particularly in the summer. The heat can be very intense and as a result, you tend to see a lot of high-scoring games in the summer period because it is hard to continually press in the heat.
“Both leagues undoubtedly have their strengths and whenever I am asked which is better, I always explain that I do not have the answer.”
Who are the best players that you have played with in your career so far and your toughest opponents?
“The best players that I played alongside would be Sebastián Driussi and Miguel Almiron.
“Driussi has played in Europe at Champions League level and is a superb footballer. Miguel is a fantastic player who is consistently showcasing his talent with Newcastle in the Premier League.
“In terms of opponents, I would single out Jonny Russell from MLS. We always have good battles whenever we are up against each other.”
Last but not least, Jon, what are your ambitions for the future?
“I would love to represent Ireland at international level. I was born in Dundalk but lived in different countries growing up due to my father’s job.
“Now that I am playing consistently, I hope that I can catch the eye of the Irish national team but I do not know if they are watching me or monitoring my progress.
“The best that I can do is continue to play at a high level and make a name for myself to hopefully one day become an international footballer.
“I want to continue working hard for Austin FC and register as many assists as I can as an attacking fullback in order to help the team achieve success in the future.”