The Razorback soccer team’s hopes are high this season after the coaching staff added an assistant coach with a resume that includes extensive European soccer coaching experience last February.
“I’ve worked in soccer in 17 countries in three continents and still my hairs stand straight up on the back of my neck when I hear the fans calling those Hogs,” David Gough said. “It’s a great place to come and work because you feel everyday like you're part of something really, really big.”
Before the Razorbacks
A native of Abertridwr, Wales, Gough has been a jack-of-all-trades in soccer, having worked in just about everything that relates to the sport, including refereeing, coaching, working for governing bodies such as the Football Association and UEFA, scouting, and even teaching for three years as a lecturer on the football coaching and performance degree program at the University of South Wales from 2011-14. During his tenure at the university, he also led the men’s soccer program to a second-place finish in both the British Universities and Colleges Sport Premier Division and in the 2012 British University Games.
Most notably, Gough was the assistant coach under fellow Welshman, Mark Sampson, that led the England Women’s National Team to a record third-place finish at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and made it to the semifinals in the 2017 UEFA Women’s European Championship. Gough said he first came to Arkansas in 2004 with a soccer coaching company called Challenger Sports.
“I met some people here, stayed in contact with them, and 10 odd years later, I had the opportunity to come back to Arkansas to be involved in club soccer, and that led to my hiring here (at the UofA),” Gough said.
Gough is also serving as a technical director for Sporting Arkansas, a local club team out of Bentonville, Arkansas. After being hired by the UofA, Gough said he was excited to get to work with Razorback head coach Colby Hale.
“The biggest compliment has to go to Coach Hale,” Gough said. “He has taken the program from relative obscurity to a Sweet Sixteen placement in his second year, and he’s built on that each year. He’s breaking attendance records, beating the likes of Duke and Florida, no one would’ve said that was possible a few years ago.”
After working in professional soccer for many years, the change to American college soccer was easier than most people think, he said.
“There’s a lot of crossover,” Gough said. “The good thing about the (American) college game is that it’s such a high level here that it resembles what you would expect to see in a lower-level professional soccer club in Britain. The facilities, the training grounds are similar so that helped me do my job better because I’ve worked in that for a long time,” Gough said.
Gough said that he doesn’t know what his coaching niche is, but that there has been one area he has been focusing as of late.
“In the last few years, especially in my experience in the national team game with England, I’ve started to focus on individual player development,” Gough said. “In soccer, you have the team working together, which is important, but if you can make the individuals better themselves, that makes the team better as a whole.”
Sophomore midfielder Kayla McKeon said she has experienced this firsthand.
“(Gough) will sit down with you and tell you, ‘This is what you need to fix. This is how we’re going to fix it,’” McKeon said. “He’ll put together videos of not just my play, but of professional players to show me what I need to do, and that (has) to take hours to put together, but he chooses to take the time out of his day to help us all out.”
Even with all the assistance he provides, Gough said he doesn’t like taking credit for what the players ultimately do to make the team succeed.
“Probably just a funny accent, mate,” Gough said when asked what he thought he brought to the table here at Arkansas.
However, junior defender Ellie Breden said Gough brings more than just an accent.
“Goughy is an incredible guy,” Breden said. “He brings a lot of energy and positivity. I feel like he’s been an amazing addition to the team because his encouragement and coaching helps us become our better selves.”
After a record-breaking season last year, the Hogs have a 6-6-1 overall record heading into the last six games of the regular season.
“We added 14 new freshman this season, so there’s going to be a period of adjusting of course, these things sometimes take time,” Gough said. “We’ve probably got the most important six games coming up so we’re focusing on doing really well in those games and in the (Southeastern Conference) Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.”
Whether it happens this season or not, Gough thinks an SEC and NCAA title is a possibility for the Hogs, he said.
“I think we always have to dream,” Gough said. “Like we saw with Penn State this season, we can challenge the best teams in the country. We can’t just hope that it comes though, we have to build it and we work really hard every game and practice to put the team in the best place that we can.”