Goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly is delighted with the competition new signing Declan Rudd brings for the number one spot.
Rudd has returned to Deepdale from Norwich City for an undisclosed fee having already had a successful 18-month loan spell at PNE across two seasons and Alan Kelly spoke of his excitement of the addition of Rudd alongside current ‘keeper Chris Maxwell.
Speaking to PNE.Com, Kelly said: “He’s been with us before and we know what he can do and we know what qualities he can bring to the squad. I’m obviously very excited because we’ve got two fantastic keepers here and to have that level of competition is fantastic for the club.”
Kelly believes the similarities between the two players can help bring out the best in everyone involved.
“The one thing they’ve got in common is they’re both great lads. They both work hard and they both want to improve on a daily basis - for a coach that likes a utopia really." He continued.
“It’s my job to get them to the optimum level to be ready to play and after that it’s up to the manager who he picks. From that point of view I’m excited about the preseason and the season ahead especially with the two keepers we have ready.
“When you’ve got two similar keepers - similar ages, similar levels of experience, both wanting to do well, both wanting to fight for that number one shirt - for a goalkeeper coach and for a management team - that’s something you’re looking for in every area of the pitch.”
Both keepers will be hoping to make themselves the first choice option in Simon Grayson’s team this season with Rudd PNE’s first choice during his time back on loan.
In Rudd’s last season as the White’s stopper he was a part of a Play-Off semi-final campaign where the club finished fifth after having his initial six-month loan deal extended to the following season.
Kelly was full of praise for both goalkeepers he’ll be working with for the upcoming season:
“They’re both all-round very good goalkeepers. I think whatever situations and whatever happens on a pitch, I think they’re both very adept and adaptable enough to react to that and that’s the beauty of having top class keepers.
“They can think on their feet, they can make the right decisions at the right time. You go on a pitch and you might think an attacker will do one thing, but he might change his mind, so you’ve got to be ready for those type of situations that you don’t expect. Both can react and deal with those situations.”
Former PNE keeper Jordan Pickford has recently completed a £30m move to Everton and having worked closely with him during his loan spell, Kelly believes he’s getting exactly what he deserves:
“It’s just rewards for someone who’s put the work in. The pathway that he’s taken going from Alfreton, Carlisle and Bradford to us - each step he’s taken he’s gone higher and higher. I think he’ll be a great success at Everton.
“I remember with Jordan they were asking if he comes for crosses - we played MK Dons once and he caught 13 out of 15. His distribution is outrageous, it’s a goal scoring opportunity every time he gets it and he made some incredible saves for us whilst he was here - so what else are you looking for in a goalkeeper?
“For us as a club, and for me, it’s nice that we’ve been a part of that journey. I fully expect him to take that opportunity at Everton and use it as a springboard to possibly go on to be England’s number one.”
North End have been blessed with many excellent keepers over the last few years and it isn’t just about the first-team goalkeepers for the coach; the staff at Deepdale are also keeping an eye on the youth players and looking to improve them and push them further.
“They like to come here, training is all based around match day experiences. We try not to make it mundane and we try to change it every day and challenge them. It’s my job to get the best out of them.
“We’ve got Matt Hudson and Callum Roberts and sometimes we have the academy goalkeepers come up and train with them too. They’ve got two great role models in Chris and Declan for them to observe and see where the bench mark is to be a top class keeper. Although we’re focusing on the first team we’re also encouraging the youth to see what they need to aspire to.”