The Wellington Phoenix have farewelled “a top, top guy” and an important member of the men’s coaching staff following the team’s exit from the A-League finals.
Popular goalkeeping coach Paul Gothard, widely known as ‘Goffy’, has left the club to reunite with his family in Auckland and join Northern Rovers as their head of men’s and junior football.
Gothard joined the Phoenix ahead of the 2018/19 A-League season and has worked alongside head coach Ufuk Talay for the past three years.
“He’s going to be dearly missed,” Talay said. “First and foremost, he’s a great person. He’s a great guy.
“He’s always a ball of fun. He always comes into the office in a positive manner, regardless of how the week has gone or how the weekend has gone.
“Football is a very emotional game at times but he’s always come in with a positive mindset and I think the staff and players feed off him.
“He’s a very good character to have within the staff and within the group.”
Talay believes Gothard has also proven he’s a great goalkeeping coach.
“For me the only way you can judge a coach is by the way the players that he worked with perform. And the players that have worked under him have performed very well.
“The first season was with Filip Kurto when he was goalkeeper of the season. Stefan Marinovic had a very good first season with us and Oli Sail has been fantastic since he’s come in.
“He’s obviously very good at what he does, working with the goalkeepers and getting them to perform the way that they have shows his capability and how good he is at what he does.”
Gothard has played a major role in Sail’s rise to become one of the leading ‘keepers in the A-League.
“He’s had a massive impact on how my career has shaped up,” Sail said.
“I’ve known Goffy from the Central United set-up in Auckland years and years ago. When he was head coach of the Central United under-19s he gave me a chance when I was maybe 14.
“Goffy has had an influence on my goalkeeping career for a long, long time now. Obviously over the past four years he’s had a lot more influence being in the same professional environment.”
Sail says Gothard is also a top, top guy.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him as a character, for what he brings the football club. His aura in the dressing room is sensational and he can’t really be compared to anyone I’ve ever shared one with.
“The sacrifices he’s had to make over the last couple of years with family have been taxing on him. But every single day he comes in with an attitude above and beyond anything you can imagine.
“It’s very sad to see him go. It’s going to leave a big hole at the football club.”
Paul Gothard forged a close relationship with Sail and the club’s other goalkeepers, Alex Paulsen and Henry Gray.
“Because they know you, I know them, I know their families, they know my family,” Gothard said.
“Goalkeepers are a little bit different you know. There’s only three of us most of the time together so it does give you an opportunity to talk a bit more and support them off the field, not just about keeping the ball out of the back of the net.”
He wouldn’t be leaving the Phoenix if it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced him to live apart from his wife and kids for the past two seasons.
“This last two years now, being nearly eight months and then another eight months away, it takes its toll. I didn’t marry to be separated from my wife.
“It’s time for me now to put some time back into the family. I’ve got my daughter, my son, and my wife up in Auckland.
“It was a very, very difficult one to leave the club, but it was very easy because I know I’m going back to be with the family.”
Gothard will miss working for New Zealand’s only professional football club.
“The best memories for me are just the day-to-day stuff. Just being able to go in and talk football, kick a ball, have a laugh. It can be such a tough job and it can also be the best job in the world all at once.”
And he has left the door open to return to the Phoenix in the future.
“Things in football change very quickly.
“For this present moment my focus is on Northern Rovers and improving everything I can possibly do for that club and being with my family.
“But who knows? I never say never in football.”