Analysis: how Scotland star Declan Gallagher would affect Celtic

By Euan Davidson

January 5, 2021

Motherwell star Declan Gallagher is “desperate” for a move to Celtic. According to the Daily Record, the Steelmen defender “feels he has a gun to his head”.

It’s needlessly dramatic language, sure. However, why wouldn’t the Scotland international want a move to his boyhood club?

Now 29, Gallagher has been impressive for Motherwell, following stints at Clyde, Dundee (Tranfermarkt) and jail (Daily Record).

Described as “a man of very good character” in court, Gallagher had been jailed for a violent incident at a hotel in Blantyre. It seems that the centre-back has turned his life around since the horrifying incident, having amassed caps for Scotland during a rare successful period for the national team.

Let’s have a look at Gallagher’s game, and discuss whether he’d an improvement at Celtic Park.


Celtic target? Declan Gallagher in action for Motherwell (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Established international, Celtic supporter

Gallagher came through the youth academy at Celtic and has made no attempts to hide his love for the club. Released in 2011, the centre-back moved on to Clyde, where he made 25 appearances in League Two.

Then, Dundee snapped him up, before a move to Livingston and then his legal troubles.

Gallagher, for his part, seems to be a reformed character and a real leader for Motherwell. At the Steelmen, he’s made 60 appearances, keeping a considerable number of clean sheets (Not the Old Firm).

He also chips in with goals and assists; he’s hit the net 20 times in his career, from the back. Clearly, he’d represent an attacking option akin to Christopher Jullien, in terms of set-pieces.

His numbers in Premiership play are pretty decent, especially in a rough season for Motherwell. He averages 1.5 tackles and 1.4 interceptions a game, while making 4.3 clearances (WhoScored?).

Compare that to Kristoffer Ajer, who faces fewer attacks but averages 1.5 tackles and 1.2 interceptions. At league standard, it’s hard to argue Gallagher wouldn’t fit in. He would certainly want to be part of a successful Celtic side, and prove something to the coaches that let him go in 2011.

As a ball-carrying, tall defender, he certainly fits the physical profile of a Celtic defender at this moment in time. He could fill in for Christopher Jullien or Shane Duffy as an aerial presence, who reads the game well and is strong in the tackle.

His passing statistics are alright, with a 77% pass completion rate in the Premiership.


Celtic’s current crop of centre-backs / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

The right pedigree?

That said, it’s doubtful that Gallagher presents the best fit for Celtic.

At 29, he only has a few more years of top-level football in him, in all likelihood. Yes, he missed 11 months of his career through off-the-field problems, but that doesn’t necessarily add a calendar year to his shelf life.

Sure, he’s been tested at International level and that works in his favour. He was part of a defence which shut out the Czech Republic and Slovakia in October. It’s impressive.

Still, despite the heroics of the Scotland team, he’s untested at European club level and would likely represent a lateral move for the Bhoys.

With Kristoffer Ajer constantly linked to a move elsewhere (Herald) and Jullien missing for four months, Celtic need centre-backs, sure. Does a 29-year-old Motherwell player fit the recruitment criteria of a club like ours, though? Or, more likely, does it represent papering over the cracks with no long-term planning?

Also, would Lawwell and co. be willing to take another risk on a player who has fallen foul of the law?

We’ve no doubt that Declan Gallagher has the hunger and the desire to play for Celtic. Defensively, he’s objectively an effective player and has done well to turn his career around.

But a Celtic defender? We’re not so sure.