Conor Gallagher: Chelsea youngster aims to follow Frank Lampard's lead at Swansea City

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Swansea City loan star Conor Gallagher chasing Chelsea dream

The first steps in Frank Lampard's stellar senior career were taken in a Swansea City shirt.

A quarter of a century later, Chelsea starlet Conor Gallagher hopes to follow the lead of his manager.

The circumstances are slightly different, of course. Lampard was a little known 17-year-old at West Ham when he joined Swansea, then of the third tier, on loan in 1995.

He played nine times for Frank Burrows' Swans, scoring his first senior goal against Brighton, before making his top-flight debut for the Hammers later that season.

Gallagher arrived at Swansea in January having already had a taste of first-team football at Charlton Athletic in the first half of 2019-20.

He could have stayed at Charlton for the season, but had eyes on the future at Stamford Bridge as he crossed the Severn Bridge.

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard (L) had a three-month spell on loan at Swansea in the 1995-96 season

"It was really difficult [to leave Chalrton] - I had such a good time there," Gallagher tells BBC Sport Wales.

"But Chelsea and I thought it was best to leave to improve my development.

"He [Lampard] thought the style of play at Swansea would suit me and I could show what I can do even more. Swansea was definitely the right club for me."

Lampard's spell in Wales came five years before Gallagher was born.

Even so Gallagher, who turned 20 last month, is aware of Lampard's career history.

"I am sure he has memories of being at Swansea and that might be one of the reasons why he was happy for me to come here," he adds.

"He messaged me when I was at Charlton just to say 'well done, keep doing what you are doing because your work isn't going unnoticed'. That's nice to hear.

"I went back for a day before coming to Swansea. It was nice to see him and all the players and staff. I know the manager and the other staff are behind me and they support me."

Gallagher, who hails from Surrey, first trained with Chelsea at the age of six.

The attacking midfielder is a Blues fan, so it is hardly surprising that he cites Lampard, Chelsea's all-time leading scorer, as one of his idols.

"He is a player I have always looked up to," Gallagher says.

"The position I play is the same as him. I want to play my game like he did - scoring goals and getting assists. He is definitely someone I'd love to learn from."

The good news for Gallagher is that Lampard has already proved his willingness to give youngsters a chance.

Having long been criticised for their failure to play academy products at senior level, Chelsea have changed their approach in recent times.

The likes of Reece James, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount have all featured regularly under Lampard this season, while 19-year-old defender Marc Guehi made a couple of appearances before joining Swansea alongside Gallagher.

Conor Gallagher
Conor Gallagher is yet to score for Swansea having netted six times for Charlton this season, although he has registered five assists in nine games for the Welsh club

Billy Gilmour, 18, is another who has broken through, with the Scottish midfielder earning rave reviews for his performance in the FA Cup win over Liverpool this week.

"He was unreal," Gallagher says. "He is a good mate of mine so to see him do as well as he did was great.

"There is a lot of talent there as everyone can see. Hopefully I can get there one day as well."

Gallagher is well aware that James, Mount and Tomori have been handed Chelsea chances having thrived during loan spells in the Championship last season.

"That gives me a lot of hope," he adds.

"It would be a dream [to play for Chelsea]. Me and my family are all Chelsea fans and that would make them so proud of me, which is the best feeling."

Gallagher has come close to Chelsea's first team already, having sat on the bench in last May's Europa League final win over Arsenal and featured in pre-season last summer.

Conor Gallagher
Conor Gallagher (R) celebrates with Chelsea team-mates having been part of the squad which thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in last season's Europa League final

He hopes his stint as a Swan will serve him well next season - and not just because of what happens on the football pitch.

"Chelsea say it's good to get away from home and be where you are less comfortable because it's a bit like a football career - you are not going to be at home all the time," Gallagher says.

"It's all part of growing up and developing as a person."

Whilst at Charlton, Gallagher was still living with his family.

"It was only 45 minutes or an hour drive from home. Swansea is a bit longer," he says.

Girlfriend Aine is with Gallagher in Wales, where he is getting to grips with housework for the first time.

"I am not too happy about it," Gallagher says with a grin. "I normally have my mum doing everything for me.

"I do jobs - normally the dishes and taking the bins out. I am not too good at cooking."

Conor Gallagher
Conor Gallagher made four tournament appearances as Steve Cooper's England side won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017

West Brom, who Swansea play this weekend, were among the clubs interested when it became clear Gallagher was to swap Charlton for a club competing at the top end of the table in January.

Gallagher has no regrets over turning down the Championship leaders to play again for ex-England Under-17 coach Steve Cooper, with whom he tasted Under-17 World Cup glory in 2017.

"We have great memories," Gallagher says. "I like him as a manager and a person. It's going great."

The question now is whether Gallagher and Cooper can do something special together once more this spring.

Swansea are four points short of the Championship's top six with 10 league games to play.

"We are just outside and it's all to play for," Gallagher says.

"All I want - all the whole club wants - is to get into the play-offs and see what we can do."

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