Preston's Chris Maxwell welcomes Ryan Giggs' appointment and competition from Declan Rudd
It is fair to say Chris Maxwell was pretty pleased with the news from Cardiff earlier in the week.
A boyhood Manchester United fan and proud Welshman, PNE’s No.1 watched on as Old Trafford legend Ryan Giggs was finally confirmed as Chris Coleman’s replacement as national team manager.
Having been in the final two squads before Coleman left Wales’ top job to take over at Sunderland, Maxwell will now be eyeing a first senior cap with a new man at the helm.
With a stellar playing CV, having won the Premier League 13 times and the Champions League twice, Giggs is now tasked with navigating a path to Euro 2020.
“I’m delighted and excited at the same time,” said Maxwell, who has represented his country from Under-17s to Under-23s level.
“He’s going to be an ambitious manager and his CV in the game is exceptional. It’s only going to be beneficial to us as players and as a nation.
“There are very few players in the world that have done what he’s done.
“He’s a Welsh legend and a United legend and being a United fan it’s going to be strange.
“I’m really looking forward to hopefully working with him and taking everything I possibly can from him.
“I think he’s going to make the team strong again, build the confidence back up and hopefully qualify for the Euros.”
Giggs has limited managerial experience having had just four games in caretaker charge of United after David Moyes was sacked at the end of the 2013-14 season.
He then worked as a coach under Louis van Gaal for the next two campaigns, leaving when Jose Mourinho took charge.
“There have been a couple of managers, Mark Hughes springs to mind, where Wales give them a chance,” said Maxwell. “He took us to a European play-off against Russia with a couple of wins against Italy along the way.
“It’s something that I’m really excited to be a part of, it’s something that I’m looking forward to playing my part in.”
The PNE keeper is in the perfect place to be at the forefront of Giggs’ thoughts, having played every minute for Alex Neil’s side in the Championship this season, helping them to within two points of the play-offs ahead of Birmingham visiting Deepdale on Saturday.
With Declan Rudd having struggled with injury since his return to the club, Maxwell’s first afternoon off came in the 5-1 FA Cup win at Wycombe at the start of the month.
“It was a nice couple of days to chill out,” he said. “I listened to the game and it was nice to be at home.
“The manager said to me that he knows I want to play, and not to play was a bit gutting at first but you’ve got to trust the manager, and the boys that went down there performed exceptionally well, Dec included, and we’ve got through to the next round which is what everyone wanted.”
Competition between the two goalkeepers was expected to be one of the main talking points of the campaign.
But Rudd has been frustrated by a thigh problem and it has only been in recent weeks that the former Norwich man has been in a position to truly keep Maxwell on his toes.
“It’s good for the group,” Maxwell said.
“Look at every position, it’s not just myself and Dec.
“Right across the backline, across the midfield and up front we’ve got a strength in numbers and we’ve got a lot of competition.
“You can look at any successful team there’s ever been, there’s always been real competition in every position.
“That’s a credit to the club we are. We’re a club that everyone wants to be at and everyone wants to be playing.
“It’s a recipe for success and nobody takes it personally.
“Me and Dec are really good friends off the pitch, we get on really well and we train well together and push each other.
“It’s only going to benefit us individually because we’re both going to get better and the club is going to succeed as a result of that.”
The pair are now working with goalkeeping coach Jack Cudworth, promoted from the academy until the end of the season after Dean Kiely’s departure to Crystal Palace after less than four months in the job.
The move came as a surprise to many but in Cudworth it is a familiar figure running training and pre-match warm-ups.
“It was one of those,” said Maxwell. “It was the right opportunity for Dean. He’s not far from London and to coach in the Premier League again was something he couldn’t turn down.
“With Jack coming in now, he’s a guy that I know very well. I spent all last season with him when he was here with Alan Kelly and he’s been around when Dean Kiely was here.
“There’s no difference to us. The training’s going to be the same and Jack’s going to play his part like everybody.”
North End are back at Deepdale this weekend for the first time since the New Year’s Day defeat to Middlesbrough.
A win against Birmingham could take the 10th-placed Lilywhites into the top six. Maxwell, more than any other player, is not shy in saying what is on the agenda for PNE come the end of the season.
“I wouldn’t have come to Preston North End if I didn’t think we could get promoted,” the shot-stopper said.
“On a personal note, I want to play in the Premier League.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the Premier League since I was a little kid and that won’t change until the last game I play.
“I know every single one of those players in that dressing room thinks exactly the same way as me.
“That’s been no different since I’ve been here for 18 months.
“Sometimes you do need somebody that instils that confidence like the manager has.
“We’ve responded to it and the things that we’re doing now and some of players that we’ve brought in have added to that.
“We’re a group that is ambitious and is going places provided we do the right things.”