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Club Connection: Luton Town

19 December 2015

Having played for both City and the Hatters, Bucks is now involved in the game stateside

HOW DOES a Hertfordshire-born manager go from a League 2 relegation battle to a coaching role in the California sun?

Step forward PAUL BUCKLE, current head coach and technical director at Sacramento Republic.

The former City midfielder migrated to the states in 2013, after his wife Rebecca was offered a presenting job at NBC. It called time upon a twenty-four-year spell in in English football, as well as year-long managerial stint with today’s opponents Luton.

KYLE TAGG spoke to Paul recently to find out how he’s been getting on.

“I decided to more or less start again in the States,” he said. “I took over an academy in New York, worked there for thirteen months and tried to sort of learn the landscape. It’s very different over here.”

The difference was initially very evident. Buckle briefly returned to England in 2014, having struggled to get the English game out of his system.

“After being in the game for thirty-odd years in England it’s hard to get it out of your system. I was missing the challenge. I went back for a short spell last season and had a very difficult job in trying to turn Cheltenham around, which obviously nobody could in the end. Then when I came back to the states, I felt that I was ready for my first managerial role.

“I’ve taken the role of Head Coach and Technical Director here [at Sacramento], which means I run the first team and I’m overseeing the academy. I’m happy with the club and it feels really good. This is the right first job for me.”

Buckle called St James Park his home on four separate occasions, both as a player and a coach. He knows the area, and the climate, very well.
 
“I miss the weather terribly! I miss those rainy days in the winter in Exeter! Devon is beautiful, I lived down in Devon for many years. I’m more or less heading towards three years being in America, so it does feel like home now. It’s nice having a fresh challenge, which is the one thing I wanted when I decided to leave the UK.

“I’ve had some wonderful years as a player and as a manager in England and now I’m looking forward to the same thing here, not as a player because those days are gone, but as a coach.”
   
Towards the end of his playing career Buckle was encouraged to take up a coaching role at Exeter, providing him with a valuable education.

“Obviously I was a player at Exeter City coming towards the end of my career, and Julian [current club chairman Tagg] encouraged me to come and work with the Under-10s. I’m really thankful for the education I got at Exeter City, because the academy has gone from strength to strength not only with players, but producing coaches.

“Exeter City have a brilliant setup, obviously with Steve Perryman there, who I’ve known for an awfully long time; he has had a big influence on my career. I’m so grateful for the way I was treated at Exeter, it’s nice looking back on it actually. Playing over a hundred games for the first team, and then coming through from the U10s all the way to assistant manager at the club.”
   
After such a long association with the club, Buckle has some very fond memories from his time with the Grecians.

“I scored a decent goal against York a long time ago which I enjoyed, at the Big Bank end. I think the standout would be working with two managers really, working in a dynamic that was very strong and very honest. It was great that I had the opportunity to be an assistant with Alex [former manager Inglethorpe] on the first occasion, and then obviously with Paul who’s still there. He knows what he’s doing, there’s no two ways about that. I think it’s an incredible measure of loyalty on both parts.”

In terms of today’s fixture, he naturally preferred to take a neutral stance: “I’m going to say a draw; I don’t want to upset the Luton fans or the Exeter fans! I think there’s a lot to play for, both teams are capable of getting promoted this year.

"Exeter and Luton are both in really good hands, with a good structure. I’m glad to see that they’re both back in the Football League.”

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