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Former PNE keeper coach Alan Kelly follows in father’s footsteps once more

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Dave Seddon talks to former Preston North End goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly about his time on the Deepdale coaching staff and the role he has recently taken up at Everton

The clock was turned back more than 30 years last month when Alan Kelly took up the offer of a job at Everton.

Having followed in his dad’s footsteps by serving Preston as a player and in a coaching capacity, Kelly is doing similar now that he has pulled on a Toffees’ tracksuit.

“When dad left Preston in 1985 after being manager, he went to Everton for a few months,” Kelly told the Post.

“I remember going over there a few times to watch him train with the Everton players – Neville Southall, Peter Reid and Graeme Sharp spring to mind.

“In many ways my dad was a pioneer in that he went there as a goalkeeper coach. There weren’t many specialised keeper coaches around then.

“Dad had been manager and assistant manager at Preston but his time with Everton involved working with the keepers.

“Neville Southall loved the work with my dad – I know he was gutted when he left to go to the United States.”

Kelly Jnr answered a call from David Unsworth to go and work with the Everton keepers when ‘Unsy’ was given the caretaker manager’s role at Goodison Park following the sacking of Ronald Koeman.

Having left North End in August after more than four years as goalkeeper coach, it was an offer too good to refuse.

Kelly said: “I was in Ireland on a family break when I got a phone call from David Unsworth.

“To be precise I was in the Guinness factory in Dublin about to sample the local culture, shall we say.

“By train, plane and taxi I got home at 2am and I was at Everton’s training ground by 8am.

“I’m enjoying it and there are lots of familiar faces.

“I’ve known Unsy for a long time.

“When he and Graham Alexander were caretaker managers at Preston at the end of 2011, I came in and worked with the keepers then. I know John Ebbrell who is helping Unsy, from our time as players at Sheffield United.

“Phil Jagielka was an apprentice at Sheffield United when I was keeper there, while I know Seamus Coleman and James 
McCarthy from the 
Republic of Ireland set-up.

“ Then of course there is Jordan Pickford, who I worked with at North End when he had 
that magnificent half-season on loan.”

Kelly thoroughly enjoyed his time as goalkeeper coach at Deepdale.

Pickford, Declan Rudd, Chris Maxwell, Thorsten Stuckmann, Sam Johnstone Jamie Jones and Anders Lindegaard were among the keepers under his tutelage.

“Without a doubt, I worked with some great keepers,” said Kelly.

“It was a fantastic four-and-a-half years back at a club which means so much to me and my family.

“Preston have been on an upward curve for the last few years and being part of that as keeper coach was brilliant.

“With Chris Maxwell, I stuck my neck out to make sure we signed him because I knew what he would bring to the team.

“To see where he is now is superb. Maxi epitomises what you want from a team.

“He works hard, is a great character about the club and is a great lad.

“Declan Rudd was here on loan when I first came back in 2013.

“In that first few months you could see the quality Declan had. When he came back to stay for the whole of the next season he was superb.

“He’s been unfortunate this season with the injury but Declan is a talent and still young for a keeper.

“Stucki is a brilliant lad – people forget how well he did when he came in to 
replace Jamie Jones and kept a run of clean sheets.

“He then got his moment of glory when we played Manchester United in the FA Cup. I would say Stucki worked as hard as any player I have seen.

“Sam Johnstone was an absolute diamond to work with and you can see how well he is now doing with Aston Villa.

“If he continues to make the progress he is doing, there is no reason why Sam shouldn’t be knocking on the England door. “

Someone to have already knocked on England’s door – and indeed walked through it – is Pickford who won his first cap against Germany on Friday night.

He spent the first half of the 2105/16 campaign with Preston when they were new to the Championship.

Said Kelly: “When Jordan was still at Sunderland, I was once asked what I would pay for Jordan?

“My answer was £30m and that was the fee Everton paid for him.

“Some of his displays at Preston were the best seen at the club –he maybe saved us 10 to 15 points in that 
early part of the season.

“Jordan is only 23 but has nearly 200 games under his belt. Some lads at his age are only just starting to come out of the academy system.

“From the age of 17, he was prepared to go out on loan and get experience.

“He went to Alfreton in non-league, to Carlisle, then to Bradford and to Preston.

“For me, that is the way that young keepers should be developing.

“It’s been a huge rise for Jordan when you consider he’s now played for England, played in Europe and is in his second season in the Premier League.”