For our feature speaking to a player who has represented both clubs this weekend, we travel half-way around the world to speak to former Preston North End and Coventry City goalkeeper Jonathan Gould, from his farm in New Zealand!
‘Gouldy’ left the Lilywhites goalkeeping staff in August and returned to a country he had previously lived and worked, but he was delighted to catch up with iFollow PNE ahead of a game against two sides that have played an important part of his life.
Life in New Zealand has been different to the UK over the last 12 months, with most things continuing as normal, after some very stringent early lock downs, keeping ‘Covid at the door’, for the four-and-a-half-million residents of the two islands.
The 52-year-old has been working with the nation’s national team, as well as with a team in the national league and alongside a local college… as well as tending to his sheep, which he admits he could ‘only do for so long’!
And he started by reflecting on the injury to Declan Rudd, back in January, someone he had worked closely with in his time back at PNE last year.
“It was poor for him, because he had been in such good form leading into that,” said the former Lilywhites custodian. “He’d made the position his own and I remember talking with him about contracts when the club were negotiating with him and one of the things I said to him at the time was that it was a really good football club, really stable behind the scenes and if he were to get injury and not have signed a contract, he would open himself up.
“It was part of the discussion as a mentor to Dec and a coach and as a friend that’s the kind of advice you impart. [The injury] is not good for the club, because they have had to go and recruit a goalkeeper, but Iversen was someone we had been tracking. Jack Cudworth brought his name forward when we had a list of goalkeepers in case anything like this happened to Declan and he has come in and done a tremendous job.”
With the change of manager in the last few months, Jonathan thinks the opportunity for whoever gets the full-time job will be an exciting one: “Frankie was probably going into a tougher job than people realised, because he had been such a close friend and colleague of Alex, so it kind of puts you under a bit more pressure, as you are stepping outside that coaching unit.
“The year I spent working with Alex, I got to know him so well and I respected his diligence and detail and that was pretty evident in our finish last year. It was disappointing for Alex, but it provides opportunity for others and the results that the club has had, the big win against Derby in the last couple of days is fantastic.
“It probably settles everybody’s nerves, because they probably were jangling a little bit and you also have to remember – and it was something I spoke to Alex about when they had a change around of players – they take time to bed in and I would imagine it has helped that Frankie knew those players and was part of that recruitment drive, so it may have been a little bit easier than people may have expected.
“I just feel delighted for the club. You think of everything that we have all been through; we have no supporters, which means we have had no cash flow. I know how hard the guys work behind the scenes, how hard Peter [Ridsdale] works and for the club to come through that and know they have Championship football and supporters still to come in – you know what I feel about the club, it has always been so well run – I am just delighted that come that first game in August, and the sun is shining, I’d like to see a full house at Deepdale, I think that’s what it deserves.”
Coventry City are in a similar situation, three straight wins having all but secured their Championship status for 2021/22 and as a man with a lot of family connections to the Sky Blues, including his own playing time there, he is delighted for them, as well.
“My father was their top scorer when they first got into the top division and he managed them, he played for them and I was lucky enough to play for them in the Premier League,” he explained.
“To see the job that Mark Robins has done and secured Championship football this year, he has done an absolutely tremendous job – again, without a huge amount of resource. They flirted with danger, but the last three wins on the bounce have secured Championship football for a club that probably should be in the Premier League, given its history.
“As we know, that is not always possible and it will be a harder job again next season, but for two clubs like Preston and Coventry to meet and probably still have fingernails left at the end of the game, is a nice thought at this time.”
There is masses more with Jonathan, as we chat for 15 minutes with him about Coventry’s return to the Ricoh Arena, the opportunity for the next full-time PNE manager, the return of fans and what it will mean, the ill-fated Super League and much, much more. Just click on the video at the top of the page to watch the full piece.
This weekend's game will see Jonathan Breeze back on the mic, for the Lilywhites' second trip to St Andrews this season; he will be joined by a co-commentator for live and exclusive coverage from 2.30pm on iFollow PNE, with all the usual camera angles, replays and graphics. Click here now to purchase your match pass for £10.