INTERVIEW: I think I'll always love it here

Striker Alex Gilliead on his first ever senior goal

Striker Alex Gilliead spoke to us about his first ever senior goal against Exeter City on Saturday.

“It all feels a bit surreal in a way, to be honest,” he said. “I was listening to Bastien [Hery] get interviewed and it’s amazing to think I’ve just scored my first senior goal, and that it’s helped us to get three points for the team. 

“I can’t take all the credit and say I did everything, because there were another ten players who played really well to keep a clean sheet, but it is unreal that I’ve got my first goal. Scoring in front of the fans at the main end of the ground makes it a bit more special.”

“I actually said to my mam and my girlfriend the other day, when I got back from the England trip, that I was going to score on Saturday,” he revealed. “Both of them told me that I better had, so it was a relief when it went in.

“With the celebration, I was looking at my mam first of all and I had the idea of doing an ‘M’ with my fingers planned for a while. It’s for my girlfriend – Megan – but this was the first time I’ve been able to roll it out. She wasn’t actually here to see the game but she told me that if I did score then I’d better do it. She’ll be chuffed that I did.”

“Getting the goal is a bit of a weight off my back,” he admitted. “I’ve had a few chances where I’ve felt I was good enough to have put them away, but it hasn’t happened for me. I wouldn’t say it was pressure, but it was there that I hadn’t got my goal yet.

“It was a great cutback from Derek [Asamoah]. I’d actually done a couple of them in the first half but there was nobody there to get on them. As soon as Bastien gave Derek the ball I thought to myself that the cutback was on. I peeled away onto the penalty spot, shouted ... and I’m just really happy that it went in. 

“When the ball came across I thought about going with my left foot, to be honest. I changed my mind because it could easily have ended up going over the stand if I had done that! I opened my body up and went for it, and I think it went between a defender’s legs as well. A goal is a goal and I’m off and running now.

“As I said before, it’s a surreal moment when it hits the back of the net. It’s everything you dream about. Scoring in front of the home fans is massive. They were unreal for us today and they gave me some fantastic support, especially when that full back was clattering me. It’s nice to be able to give them a little bit of something back.”

On his overall performance, he said: “I think it was the best I’ve played in terms of being in front of a big crowd and with the way things went during the game. Playing for the England U20s is a big thing but it’s nothing like that was today. The result really matters and three points are on the line, so everything you do is judged. 

“The fans have made it easier for me though. My name was cheered when I was given out as man of the match and they even did that for me at half time when I was walking off the pitch. It was almost as if I’d scored a goal for them then. 

“It’s hard to get your head round the fact everyone is giving you that type of support. I’ve had it ever since I came over from Newcastle, on social media and on the pitch, and I love it here at the moment. Hopefully I’ve shown them a bit of what I can do.”

“It was an unbelievable day for me as a whole,” he commented. “I went into the dressing room at half time and I was blowing a bit. The manager was telling everyone to keep giving me the ball and I was thinking ‘I don’t know if I can deal with that!’ 

“There’s nothing much in your head when you do get the ball because you’re just thinking about beating the next man. When they double up that’s even better because it means you’re doing something right.

“It’s the first time I’ve been treated like that by a defender. I think that’s because he’s an experienced player so he knew what he was doing. I had it a few times at Newcastle when defenders tried to get into my head and bully me, but he added a physical aspect when he tried to clatter me a few times. 

“Every time he did it I just decided to keep running at him. The fans reacted to that as well and I heard them roaring at me every time I went up against him. When he was substituted I clapped him off as well, so it was a good game.”

Speaking about the role he was asked to play, he said: “I’m usually a winger when I go away with England and the Newcastle U21s. The gaffer has spoken about me playing through the middle as well, and I’m more than happy with that. 

“I think I’m more suited out wide with one against one because I’d back myself against most of the full backs I’ll come up against. It’s a big strength I have.”

“Doing what I did and for it to be part of a win like this is one of the best feelings ever,” he confirmed. “We were speaking about the form before the game because we’ve been getting better away results recently. We can’t play any better away from home so it’s here where we need to brush up. I think the three points from this one will have lifted everyone’s spirits.

“I think the only way is up now. Where we are in the table at the moment won’t be where we’ll finish. I’m not just saying that because we beat Exeter. I think we’re better than some of the teams who are at the top of the league. The rest of the division has something to be worried about with us.”

“I have to say this does feel like my club at the moment,” he concluded. “I had a text off my mam which said all the fans near where she was in the crowd loved me. 

“I’ve only been here a short period of time but it holds a special place in my heart already. I think I’ll always love it here.”

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