A FOOTBALLER who was jailed after attacking a man with a baseball bat has spoken for the first time after re-signing for Livingston FC.
Declan Gallagher, 25, was sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of assaulting a chef outside a hotel in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, more than three years ago.
The victim suffered a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull in the incident.
Gallagher has now been released from prison and immediately agreed a return to the West Lothian club, who ply their trade in League One. The former Dundee and Celtic player said he was grateful for the chance to resume his professional career.
He said he was trying to “blank out” criticism from football fans.
Gallagher said: “I’m thankful to the club for bringing me back after a very tough time in my life.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into a routine again.
“It’ll be great to get back into the changing rooms and have a laugh with the boys.
“I’m just trying to blank everything else out that people have been saying.
“I’m staying focused on helping Livingston to reach the top.”
Appeal judges rejected Gallagher’s challenge against the conviction last February, although during his release on bail before his case was heard he made 30 appearances for the Lions in the first half of the 2015/16 campaign.
On his day-release work placement from prison, he trained regularly with Championship side Raith Rovers.
His sister, Demi Gallagher, defended her brother on Facebook, following a string of negative comments from supporters.
She wrote: “My brother has only ever wanted to play football since way before he could walk. He has put his life and soul into the game and missed out on many things.
“To everyone saying he is not a role model I have to disagree, I have watched my brother chase after his goal all his life.
“He has achieved so much that many of us couldn’t and for that he will always be my role model.”
She added: “My brother has lost one of the most important years of his life with my niece being born.
“She still smiles away every time she sees her daddy.
“Our family has been ripped apart but we still stay strong as it is the opinion of the many people who know us and Declan that really count.
“My brother will play again as it is what he deserves.”
Gallagher made a successul return to first-team action on Saturday, scoring the opening goal in Livingston’s 3-2 win at Peterhead, which moved the Lions nine points clear at the top of the table.
A club statement read: “Livingston FC would like to welcome back Declan Gallagher for the remainder of the season. Declan will help the club push on with our target of making an immediate return to the SPFL Championship.”
Gallagher’s co-accused, Anthony Murray, was also jailed after the attack.