Durham University student graduates into Hartlepool United keeper
Ben Dudzinski is counting down the days to making the transition from exam hall to football field.
The keeper, who signed for Hartlepool United last month after a successful trial period, has completed his studies at Durham University.
Dudzinski will graduate on July 1 in the magnificent Durham Cathedral before starting his professional football career a long goalkick down the road at Maiden Castle.
Pools boss Craig Hignett signed the 20-year-old as the club’s number three keeper following the departure of teenager Peter Denton in May.
Dudzinski joins one of the best goalie squads in the Football League, behind Trevor Carson and Adam Bartlett.
The South-West Londoner told SportMail: “I couldn’t be more excited – I can’t wait for pre-season training to start.
“I’m relishing the opportunity of training every day with Trevor and Barts and with [goalkeeping coach] Tony Caig and look to improve.
“It’s a very quick turnaround from Uni to starting at Hartlepool, but it can’t come quickly enough.
“To be part of a professional set-up is amazing and I will work hard, learn and see where that can take me.”
Dudzinski has already impressed his bosses at Maiden Castle.
The Durham University goalie was spotted by Caig early in the season and invited to train with Pools in the latter weeks of the campaign.
“Our pre-season at Uni started in September and the coach got in contact with Tony to see if he’d do some sessions with our four keepers,” said the goalie, who has just completed his sports science degree and hopes to get a 2:1.
“A couple of months before the end of the season, Hartlepool got in touch and asked me if I’d train with them.
“I more or less trained as much as my work would allow and played for Pools against a Fulham Development side.
“All went well, we won 2-1 and it was great experience for me.
“I wanted to become a professional footballer, but I didn’t particularly anticipate signing.
“I made sure I never got ahead of myself – for me, it was all about getting vital experience and getting to train with Tony, Trevor, Barts and Peter [Denton].
“But I was chuffed to bits the way it worked out.”
Despite his time in University football, Dudzinski is not without some senior exposure between the sticks.
He has played for his local team, Carshalton Athletic, in the Isthmian League First Division before moving to fellow south London club Kingstonian in the Premier Division of the same competition.
“I have a bit of first-team experience at both teams,” said the man from Morden. “I’ll hopefully build on that now at Hartlepool.”
Dudzinski would love an early chance to show what he can do by being involved in some pre-season matches with Pools.
Currently, three are planned, against Sunderland (H), Salford (A) and Scunthorpe (H), plus two on the trip to Tenerife.
“I’m just really looking forward to pre-season training and working with the lads and the coaches,” he added. “If I get an opportunity on the pitch, that would be fantastic.”