Name: Joe Gallagher
Date of birth: 
11 January 1955, Liverpool, England
Position: Defender
Debut: Division One, West Ham United 0-3 Coventry City, 11 December 1982
Final game:
Division One, West Ham United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion, 5 March 1983
Appearances:
11
Goals: 0

A former West Ham United and Birmingham City defender would have noted this week that the Hammers revved and hit top gear ahead of today's against the Blues - West Ham's third meeting with his old club inside a month.

Joe Gallagher, who for the last 16 years has been working for Land Rover, was signed by John Lyall in 1982 and although he only played nine games in the old Division One and a couple in the cup, the central defender still looks back fondly on his time at the Boleyn Ground.

"My move to West Ham came out of the blue. It was a Sunday evening and I was putting my daughter in the bath as usual when my phone rang. It was about 7.30pm and on the other end of the phone was John. I couldn't believe it was John Lyall, but he asked if he could come up and speak to me about signing for West Ham.

"I said 'Yes' and within two hours there was a knock at my door and there was John on my doorstep. John explained that West Ham had a few defenders out - Alvin Martin was injured, Billy Bonds had a broken toe and Ray Stewart was suspended."

What had started out as an ordinary Sunday evening had taken a bizarre turn and for Gallagher the surprises kept on coming.

"John told me that night he really needed me to come to West Ham, which I said was fine, but he said there was one problem. I thought 'Oh no, here we go, there's a problem'. He said 'You have to come with us now'.

"I said 'That's not a problem, give me two minutes to pack a bag'. So I packed a bag and within a couple hours me, John and Eddie Bailey, who'd come up with John, were back down in London and they put me up in a hotel in Essex."

Gallagher was out of work after leaving Wolverhampton Wanderers, but before that he had been at Birmingham for more than a decade.

"John took me down to West Ham on that Sunday night and although I was only there for about nine months, I had a fantastic time. It was a dream come true for me to be playing and getting changed alongside the likes of Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Alvin Martin, Phil Parkes and Ray Stewart."

Despite all his years at St Andrews and his connections with Birmingham City, where Joe is a true legend, he speaks so warmly about his time with West Ham.

"It was an absolute joy being at West Ham.We'd go into training and every day it would be different. John took a lot of the training but there was also a lot of input from Ronnie Boyce.

"It was amazing because every training session was different. If you ask most players from the 70s and 80s, training was pretty boring and it was the same thing every day. At West Ham it was different every day. I'd come off the training pitch and say 'I'd never done that before' and all the lads would say they never did the same session twice. Every day was an absolute joy."

Gallagher had played at Birmingham under Sir Alf Ramsey and speaks in glowing terms about him and in the same way John Lyall.

"The first thing that struck me about John was how down to earth he was. He told me not to call him 'Boss' but to call him 'John'. I thought for someone so high ranking it was amazing that he didn't want to be called 'Boss' but 'John'.

"Also, everyone at the club was treated the same - Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Francois Van der Eslt, or the youngsters coming through, the likes of Tony Cottee and Alan Dickens. John was not only a top football manager but a thorough 100 per cent English gentleman.

"I couldn't believe the way was I was looked after at the club. On the first and second days that I was at the club, I was treated like I had been there for 15 years - everyone took me under their wing. I would go back to my hotel and think 'This can't be true. I can't believe I'm being treated like this'.

"The lads couldn't do enough to help me, the likes of Alvin Martin and Ray Stewart would even take me round the local area to look for houses to buy."

After playing, Gallagher opened a hotel and subsequently lost all the money he made from the game. His advice to young players now is to stay in the game when they finish playing, to stay involved with clubs and get into coaching.

Now 56, Gallagher maintains his links via his work with the Press Association at Birmingham home games and the hospitality work he does at St Andrews, while his full-time occupation is as a shift manager at Land Rover.