Empty stadiums still strange for Preston North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd

Declan Rudd says walking out to an empty stadium will never be the ‘new normal’ for him.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 12:30 pm

The Preston North End goalkeeper still finds it a strange experience to play behind closed doors and thinks the absence of fans is contributing to some of the strange results seen in the different divisions.

Rudd and his Lilywhites team-mates will experience an empty Madejski Stadium on Wedneday night (7pm) as they look to maintain their strong away form against Championship leaders Reading.

They head to Berkshire on the back of home defeats to Millwall and Birmingham in the past week – it is five losses out of five at Deepdale in the league this season.

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Preston North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd

It is eight months since PNE last played in front of a crowd – bar the 2-2 draw at Norwich in September when 1,000 fans were let in as part of a now abandoned pilot scheme.

Rudd said: “It still feels strange, for years we have been used to the noise of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 fans or whatever, as we walk out of the tunnel.

“We walk out now and there is no noise, it is like going out for a training session.

“That is when you have use your mental skills to get going and get up for it.

Declan Rudd

“You do miss the noise of the crowd, when you are playing every three or four days you could do with the noise of the crowd for a lift – even from the opposition fans – just to help get that adrenaline pumping.

“At away games you tend to be in different changing rooms from where you used to be, stadiums have been redesigned for that.

“You are coming down three flights of stairs and hopping over an advertising board to get on to the pitch.

“It’s strange but it is our job to win games of football whatever the circumstances.”

The fact PNE are on the road for the next two games – on Saturday they travel to Rotherham – comes as a relief when you bear in mind how poor results have been at Deepdale.

They will not tread on home turf again until November 21. On the road, they take a run of three successive wins into the Reading game, having beaten Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Huddersfield on their travels in October.

Rudd said: “We need to look to take maximum points but Reading and Rotherham away are two tough games in their own right.

“Reading are the form team and top of the table, Rotherham will be difficult.

“We need to make sure we are right in ourselves and our mentality is right.

“On our day we know we are good enough to take on any team in this league and beat them.

“We need to put some points on the board and focus on these next games.

“There is no point letting the two defeats at home in the last few days hang over us, they have happened and we have to put them to bed.”

The contrast in Preston’s home and away form will be a talking point until things even out somewhat.

It is a difficult one to explain, Rudd finding it as puzzling as the next man.

The 29-year-old does believe it has come under more intense scrutiny with the form at Deepdale being so poor.

Rudd said: “I’ve said this all along, if you had lost every away game and won every home game, would anyone be saying anything?

“At the moment pretty much every game is a level playing field because there are no fans in the stadiums.

“Regardless of where we are playing at, it is a football pitch with a stadium around it with no ways of giving anyone an advantage.

“I think with us at the moment it is more of a mental thing as a squad.

“With not doing well at home we are putting ourselves under more pressure.

“At home we are not quite playing to our full potential because we are worried about losing the game rather than going out there and playing with freedom.

“That is something we need to address as a squad, get to the bottom of it.

“I’m sure we will and that the results will get better at home.”

Since the return after the shortened summer break, Rudd has been working with goalkeeper coach Mike Pollitt who took the job when Jonathan Gould emigrated to New Zealand.

He is enjoying working with Pollitt who was previously keeper coach at Wigan, Rotherham and Bolton. Said Rudd: “Polly is good, he’s a great character.

“He’s been around the game for a long time and knows football inside out.

“It’s nice to work with different keeper coaches and learn from them.

“Every coach has their own way of doing things and their own sessions.

“It is enjoyable to work with Polly, he works you hard in training.”

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