MICHAEL Duckworth is looking to see Hartlepool United and himself “kick on” next season.
The popular defender ended his first campaign as a pro with the Pools Away Player of the Year trophy and with a growing reputation.
Duckworth is currently enjoying a breather but is already counting down the days to a return to training on July 1.
A training camp in Spain will be followed by a friendly programme which will feature a Victoria Park derby with Middlesbrough on Wednesday, July 30 and the big League Two kick-off on August 9.
Pools flattered to deceive a little last season, showing moments of bright promise only to run out of gas and finish just above the relegation zone.
Duckworth is confident Pools will hit the highs next season.
“It’ll be exciting and I’m looking forward to it,” said the 22-year-old.
“We’ve grown this year as a team so hopefully next year we’re all that little bit older and more experienced and we’ll be able to kick on.
“We’ll be looking to do better than this year and push for the play-offs.
“We’ve got a good mixture in our squad, we have a lot of youth and we have players like Sam [Collins] and Scotty [Flinders].”
Duckworth is enjoying a rest after a gruelling first season as a full-time professional after being plucked from non-league Bradford Park Avenue by boss Colin Cooper.
The Yorkshireman is grateful for his “second chance” after not being kept
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on by York City following the end of his youth team days at Bootham Crescent.
“It’s been hard for the body to adapt to training every day and that’s may be why I picked up an injury or two last season,” he told SportMail.
“Hopefully next season I’ll be full adapted and I can push on.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do all my life.
“I’m not sure that many people in in life can say they do a job they love.
“I always try hard every time I go out and play, but I know it’s not a very long career so I need to work hard to try to play the best I can.
“I had a trial at Bradford City but nothing came of that so I’m grateful to the gaffer here for giving me the opportunity.”
He added: “I’m giving myself a rest and holiday but I’ll keep fit, go to the gym and be ready for pre-season.
“I missed a bit of pre-season last year, but I’m looking forward to getting it all this summer.
“I arrived after Holland last year, so I missed it.
“But Spain will be nice this year.”