Sunderland appointed former youth product David Preece as their goalkeeping coach in the summer following the departure of Lee Butler, who left the club to re-unite with Phil Parkinson at Wrexham.
Preece appeared on The Totally Football League Show this week to discuss his new job, and Sunderland’s new goalkeeping coach couldn’t agree with the presenter more when asked whether returning to the club in his new role was his dream job:
Yeah, you could say that.
It’s basically been a long time coming, 30 years, since I last left the club and it was never really the aim to come back here,but it’s something that came up and obviously I was delighted to accept it.
It’s very much a role that I can’t wait to get teeth into, obviously initially I’m just getting my feet under the table and getting to familiarise myself with the Stadium again, the training ground.
I’ve been a stranger for such a long time, so it’s very nice to be back.
Asked whether seeing his kit with the Sunderland badge on made his hair stand on end, after so long away, Preece said it was hard not to be excited but as he had his ‘dreams crushed’ once before by the club, he feels as if he has unfinished business:
I think it’s difficult not to, the 15-year-old lad that signed for Sunderland, he’s still inside me somewhere, it’ll be impossible for me not to enjoy that moment.
There’s so much good will that’s come my way as well, from family and friends and on social media. It just felt like no matter how things went here, the goodwill itself meant it’s worth coming anyway.
I’m lucky in a sense that I spent the first six years of my career here, but I was far from a success and kind of left with my dreams crushed a little bit - and I know some people will think it’s unfinished business, but it does feel that way to me, and it feels like a second chance to come back to the club, having a real opportunity to have some influence over the direction that the club goes.
Especially from a goalkeeping perspective, there’s so much scope and opportunity to improve things and try to shape them in the way that I envisage them as well, it’s just a brilliant opportunity for me.
Preece says he did not know head coach Lee Johnson before he arrived at the club, but had been a team-mate of Jamie McAllister during his days with Aberdeen, and then explained the details behind his recruitment:
I didn’t really know Lee that much before I came in, initially I was asked to help out for a week when Lee Butler, the former goalkeeping coach, left and that’s where the whole process started from there.
Of course I am familiar with Lee’s work and I played with his assistant at Aberdeen, Jamie McAllister, so there was a little bit of familiarity there but still, going through the whole process of interviewing because of Covid and things, the first one was a Zoom interview, then it was an interview in person, it seemed like a long, drawn out process but in the end it was, because the club had been so thorough, it just felt right anyway.
I have kind of put myself in a good position where I did have four or five offers come the end of last season, the Sunderland offer came late and of course, everything that goes with that, it made me hold off on everything else to make sure this was right and of course it was, I am glad I’m here.
Lee Burge and Anthony Patterson have started a game apiece this season, Burge in the League and Patterson in the League Cup, with Preece believing that both already having a competitive start under their belt is a healthy position to be in:
It’s a really healthy position for them all to be in.
I’ve been in a lucky position because I am a Sunderland supporter, I am a Sunderland fan, so especially over the last few years, I’ve been to a lot of games, I’ve seen a lot of the football, I’ve got to know their games, especially Lee Burge’s, I’ve got familiar with his game so I’m not coming into this blind, it was good to come in and see them first hand.
Same with young Anthony, apart from a couple of Papa John’s or Checkatrade trophy games, Tuesday night’s game against Port Vale was his first full debut, so it was good to see him in action.
He certainly looks very promising, regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season recruitment wise, we’re pretty well looked after in that respect.
Asked whether promotion will be the aim this season, Preece said it has to be - although did point out that the club is building from the ground up:
It has to be, obviously the new owner coming in, it’s been a little bit of a situation where everything’s having to be built from the bottom up and that’s the best way to be, the best foundations that are laid means success later on is, I don’t know if more likely, but it’s certainly a better preparation for it.
At the same time, that takes time, the foundations being put in and doing everything right, putting the right infrastructure into the club, that takes time as well. So it’s a real balance between the two.
Obviously long term the aim is to get back where we were but of course a lot of hard work has to go in before that.
You can listen to the full episode of The Totally Football League Show by pressing play on the media player below: