Preston North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd played an important part last season with his contributions not only on the pitch but also his strong involvement in the community.
The shot-stopper was rewarded for his efforts with the club’s Community Player of the Year award thanks to the important role he played in PNE Community and Education Trust’s education programmes and in their mental health initiatives.
Dec told PNE.Com: “I see it as part of the job, sort of giving back what we can to people that we can help.
“If just having a chat with someone and having five minutes with them can make a difference then it’s something so simple and easy that takes nothing away from us.
“It’s just a little thing that we can do that makes a massive difference to someone else. People are obviously starting to get a bit braver and starting to speak about mental health within the last couple of years and I think that’s brilliant because it is something that once you start speaking about it, it is the only way you can sort of start to overcome it.
“If us as footballers can just have a five-minute chat with a fan and that helps them then you can’t really take that away from anyone because it’s a great thing to be able to do.”
Goalkeepers perhaps more than other positions on the pitch face mental battles due to the potential importance and backlash of their mistakes, but Dec stressed that looking at the bigger picture there are much more important things to worry about.
He said: “It’s the life of a goalkeeper and you might say you make a mistake and it’s massive but in the grand scheme of things it’s a mistake in a football game.
“When you look at what’s going on in the world if you start taking things like that to heart – I mean every footballer does, it’s our job and there’s a lot of people counting on us. The better we do, the better people do around us and it’s our job on the pitch to do what we can to make the club bigger and better but I think I’ve learned definitely in the last few years that there’s a lot more important things going on in life.
“A mistake in a game of football happens. Everyone makes mistakes at work and you’ve just got to sort of push it to one side and get over it and just realise you are a footballer playing a game at the end of the day.
“There’s people out there who are suffering from much worse problems than you making a mistake in football.”
Those mistakes certainly didn’t come too often for Dec in the 2019/20 campaign as he played every single minute of league football and not for the first time in a PNE shirt either.
He achieved the same feat for the Lilywhites in 2013/14 and he’s actually the only North End player to be an ever-present in a league season since 2008/09 when Andy Lonergan wore the gloves all year long.
“Something that I definitely aimed to improve on is form and consistency,” said the 29-year-old. “I think my first two years I was in and out a little bit. I started, was injured for a while then I was sort of in and out and my form wasn’t good enough to keep my place for the whole season.
“It’s something I sat down with Gouldy about at the beginning of the season when he joined. He said what are your main aims this season and I just said I want to have a consistent level of performance throughout the season where I can maintain that and keep going because I think as a goalkeeper you’re looked at to be the solid one in the team.
“I think the team’s confidence can come a lot from you because if they’ve got trust in you behind them that you can do the job nine times out of ten then it helps them concentrate on their job.
“So it’s something that I sat down and really thought about so I’m proud to have played every minute of every game. It was a very enjoyable season personally; I think it was for most of the lads to be honest.
“We gave it a great go and it’s something that we’ve done in the last three years consistently and that’s punching above our weight.
“We’re competing with clubs probably two, three, four times the wage budget what we’ve got and we’re still expected or we expect ourselves to be up there and that’s a massive achievement for us because we are punching above our weight and I think everyone’s aware of it. I think that’s why we’re sort of enjoying the situation that we put ourselves in.”
We’ve got more to come from Declan in the coming days as he discusses the recent change in goalkeeper coach, his excitement to return to training and much more so make sure you keep an eye across our social media channels and on PNE.Com.