MICHAEL Duckworth says he has waited long enough for his shot at professional football and is determined to make his time at Hartlepool United a success.
The 21-year-old signed in the summer from non-league Bradford Park Avenue and has adapted well to life at Pools and admits he has “enjoyed every day” since walking through the doors at Victoria Park.
He has proved such a hit since signing for Colin Cooper’s side that he has secured his place in the starting eleven at right-back.
Cooper admitted earlier this week that he will remain in the team unless he is injured or suspended, such has been his impressive form.
The marauding defender says he never thought he would have played 20 games already but believes he has fitted in well, both on and off the pitch.
Duckworth said: “I don’t feel out of place or that I’m struggling week in, week out or day in, day out at training.
“I feel as though I am doing well and just need to keep working hard and striving to go forward.
“I was paying my own way in the summer when I was travelling in but it shows the determination to get a professional contract.
“The older experienced lads have been good to me and helped me progress and keep telling me what to do.
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“It is different coming from non-league into league football but they have been good to me.”
It has taken the right-back longer than most to find his way into the professional game but he said he never gave up even when he was released from York City where he was an apprentice.
Duckworth said: “When I was at York as a youth team player, I always thought I had a chance of getting in the first team.
“But when they released me I thought I’d never give up and keep trying as it is what I have wanted to do since a young age.
“Fortunately it has paid off.
“There is not a massive difference but if you make a mistake at this level then you are more than likely to be punished for it.
“The less mistakes you make then the better your team is going to do.
“The tempo is quicker and it is harder work.
“The wingers, when I was playing non-league, never got the ball and ran at me, they just used to pass it so it was more comfortable for me.
“But I feel as though I have adapted well to the Football League.”
Duckworth was the stand-out performer for Bradford Park Avenue last season winning the Supporters’, Players’ and Manager’s Player of the Year awards and he has carried that form into his Pools career.
And German-born Duckworth is loving it – especially playing against teams like Portsmouth, who won the 2008 FA Cup, as he did in the goalless draw at The Vic on Saturday.
He added: “Not that long ago they were FA Cup winners and it is good to play against teams like that.
“You play better, especially with the large crowds, and it will be nice to go to their place and play down there as well.”