Paul Buckle has had enough ups and downs in his coaching career to know he’s landed a great gig with Republic FC.
Never mind that he’s replacing Preki, who announced Wednesday that he’s leaving Sacramento to coach in the United Kingdom. Preki, well known in the United States as a player and coach, led Republic FC to the USL championship in the team’s inaugural season last year.
Buckle, 44, who takes over Sunday, is largely unknown outside of England, where he has played and coached professionally most of his life in English football’s lower tiers.
But Buckle’s grass-roots work, organizational abilities and vision intrigued Republic FC president Warren Smith and technical director Graham Smith enough to sign Buckle to a three-year contract. He turned around a struggling New York youth academy program and has helped rebuild club teams in England.
“Paul’s record as a manager and as a player is very good, very strong,” Graham Smith said. “He’s going to be great for the players, even though he has a different style than Preki. … He’s exactly the same as Preki deep down. He doesn’t like to lose. He’s extremely detailed in his planning and his thinking.”
Added Warren Smith: “He hasn’t guaranteed us victories, but he’s used the exact same line as Preki in that we’ll be competitive.”
Buckle had winning runs with Torquay United (104-64-56) and Luton Town (26-13-9). In one of his biggest coaching highlights, Buckle led Luton Town to a fifth-round FA Cup upset of Premier League club Norwich City in 2013, the first time in 27 years that a nonleague (the level below England’s top four divisions) team achieved that feat and the first time in FA Cup history that a team did it at an away stadium.
But Buckle had unsuccessful stints with the Bristol Rovers (8-15-6) in 2011 and with Cheltenham Town (1-7-5), which replaced him in February after just 79 days.
“Any manager who has coached 320 games is going to have some good times and some bad times,” Buckle said.
Buckle will have 20 days to work with the players before Republic FC resumes USL play Aug. 1 against the Seattle Sounders 2 at Bonney Field.
He said he’s pleased to join an organization “that’s not broken, that’s on the up, and that’s vibrant.”
He felt welcomed when Preki and Graham Smith invited him to pick their brains about the team, the organization and the USL.
“I have a real good understanding of what Preki has been doing with the team,” Buckle said. “I’ve been able to observe games and training and spent a number of hours talking to Preki. He has obviously left this in great shape, but I’m sure he’d be the first to say that it’s not one person, it’s a team game in Sacramento, and that’s what was appealing to me. I feel really comfortable with the whole staff.”
While he has met some of the players, he will hold his first team meeting Sunday as Republic FC prepares to play English Premier League teams Sunderland AFC on Tuesday and Newcastle United FC on Saturday, both at Bonney Field.
He will have 20 days to work with the players before Republic FC resumes USL play Aug. 1 against the Seattle Sounders 2 at Bonney Field.
“If there is a perfect time for Preki to leave during the season, I think it’s now,” midfielder Rodrigo Lopez said. “The new coach has three weeks and two friendly matches to work with us before we go back into league play. That gives coach Buckle some time to establish his philosophy and the way he wants to play.”
But Buckle said he doesn’t anticipate radical changes to Preki’s system, which he says he likes.
“It brings a smile to my face because it’s hugely attacking,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to watch it on game tape, see it live and see it in training. I want to sit there and enjoy the game. I don’t want to sit there and be bored.”
But he hopes to make some defensive improvements and increase scoring proficiency.
Don’t tell my wife I’m living here now. I’m fully committed to Sacramento, and I intend on moving here (permanently). Rebecca is excited about coming here as well. A couple of their guys on the show travel from California to NBC (in Stamford, Conn.) for the weekends. So I see no reason why my wife can’t do it.
Paul Buckle, new Republic FC coach
While he said it will be a challenge for Republic FC to repeat as USL champions in an expanded and much-improved league, he thinks the team has enough talent to make a bid.
“The players all have a great attitude,” he said. “They train hard, which is what I want. You have to train the way you play.”
Buckle has spent most of the last two years living in Connecticut because his wife, Rebecca Lowe, anchors the popular English Premier League show in the United States on NBC Sports Network.
“Don’t tell my wife I’m living here now,” Buckle said, smiling. “I’m fully committed to Sacramento, and I intend on moving here (permanently). Rebecca is excited about coming here as well. A couple of their guys on the show travel from California to NBC (in Stamford, Conn.) for the weekends. So I see no reason why my wife can’t do it.”