St Johnstone have continued their Liverpool-themed January recruitment drive by following up the signing of former Anfield youth defender Daniel Cleary with a deal to bring in left-back Tony Gallacher.
Courier Sport explores the 22-year-old’s road to McDiarmid Park.
Linked with Barcelona
After Gallacher broke into the Falkirk first team as a 16-year-old in November 2015 it didn’t take long for the hype to explode.
Thanks to Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney, Scottish left-backs were in vogue.
Naturally, Celtic and Rangers were both on the scene to scout the Glasgow boy who came through the Forth Valley academy but so too were Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and even Barcelona.
Falkirk manager Peter Houston said at the peak of the Gallacher speculation: “Barcelona might be watching Tony but they haven’t asked for any tickets for our games!”
The player himself later admitted that the Barca talk impacted his football.
“It just doesn’t leave your mind for about two weeks,” he told the Daily Record. “And when you play games that pressure is on top of you.
“The Barcelona stuff did affect my form, particularly in one game shortly after it. It was in my head that I had to impress people.
“I felt I had to show people I was worth it. But when things weren’t coming off for me, it would affect me and I’d go into a shell.”
Liverpool win the race
In January 2018, Gallacher did indeed get his dream move – not to the Camp Nou but to Anfield.
Falkirk received a fee of around £200,000 up front and, after being with the Bairns from the age of 10 and making 26 first team appearances, the full-back was faced with the daunting challenge of breaking into Jurgen Klopp’s star-studded senior squad.
— LFCZA (@LFCZA) January 25, 2018
The League Cup quarter-final
When the Liverpool big names were in Qatar competing for – and ultimately, winning – the Club World Cup in December 2019, it fell to the academy youngsters to face Aston Villa in a League Cup quarter-final clash at Villa Park.
The kids acquitted themselves well and some, like Caoimhin Kelleher and Harvey Elliott have gone on to take the next step.
But the shadow side’s 5-0 defeat proved to be Gallacher’s one and only top team appearance and it was a case of back to the under-23s.
Another save from Orjan Nyland keeps Liverpool at bay!
The 'keeper makes a wonderful initial stop from Tony Gallacher before Leighton Clarkson goes close again with a leaping header.
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) December 17, 2019
By this point it was becoming clear Gallacher wouldn’t be challenging fellow Scot, Robertson for the left-back Liverpool shirt or even the role of chief support.
There is no shame in that, though, given they were the European champions and soon-to-be Premier League title winners.
For Gallacher the next career move was an MLS loan to Toronto.
Because of Canadian Covid-19 travel restrictions, the club had to play out their season in the United States, meaning he didn’t actually spend any time in Toronto.
During that 2020 loan, Gallacher helped his team into the play-offs, making 10 appearances, five of them starts.
The highlight was an assist for an equaliser against Philadelphia Union that Robertson would have been proud of.
Academy full-back Tony Gallacher has reflected on his loan spell in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC.
— Anfield Watch Academy (@AcadWatch) January 29, 2021
Toronto’s head of scouting operations, Jack Dodd, confirmed that Gallacher made a good impression.
“Everyone at the club loved him,” Dodd told the Liverpool Echo. “The people around the club, the players, the coaching staff, they all loved him.
“Tony did well. He was exactly what we hoped for. We brought him in to be cover, but thought he would get some games as well, and that is exactly what happened.
“But equal credit goes to his character. He was a pleasure to deal with from start to finish.”
Sunderland move falls through
Sunderland were reported to be the frontrunners to sign Gallacher in the summer but talks between the two clubs broke down.
It was understood the Reds were happy to let him leave on a free but the deal collapsed over the size of any future sell-on fee.
That Liverpool believe Gallacher could yet turn into a money-making asset bodes well as far as Saints are concerned.
For the Perth club, the only priority at the moment is their new full-back being part of a team that avoids relegation from the Premiership.
Gallacher played for Scotland at under-16, under-17 and under-19 level.
National team-mates have included fellow Saints Glenn Middleton and Charlie Gilmour.
The potential of Gallacher and Middleton linking-up again down the left will no doubt have been in Callum Davidson’s mind when he identified his latest January recruit.