Last Saturday saw Dartford host Farnborough at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

Goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski arrived at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park last month, and has already become an important part of the Dartford side.

Since his arrival, he has started five times and, despite conceding four goals on the road, is unbeaten here at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park in more ways the one.

Having featured three times here, Ben hasn’t been beaten, as he’s kept clean sheets in the two victories and recent goalless draw against Oxford City. And, he’s in good spirits at the time of our discussion, stating that he’s please to be here representing the Darts.

But why did he join? He explains, “Dartford’s a big club with a great setup and fan base. Just from playing against Dartford, I knew the quality that’s here, as well as the expectations and potential of the club. I had good conversations with the manager (Alan Dowson) and the team’s in a good position as it currently stands. So, with all of those things considered, it was a brilliant opportunity that I had to take.”

And Ben’s taken his opportunity with both gloves, having ousted his new teammate and Dartford number one Dan Wilks from the minute he arrived. Not only has he proved to be a confident man between the posts, but his abilities should also serve to add fierce competition to both Wilks and young goalkeeper Tom Wray, which can only be a good thing for the team.

Since his arrival, Ben’s competitive nature has been evident, as he strives to keep as many clean sheets as possible in order to help the Darts get promotion to the National League. The sight of him hitting the floor in frustration after conceding at Braintree Town a few weeks ago is firmly lodged in my memory, as he talks about clean sheets and promotion.

Being inspired by goalkeeping greats, such as Iker Casillas and Petr Cech, his competitive nature is something which has certainly served Ben well during his own career… “I was at Oxford City for two and a half seasons. Prior to that, I’d been at Sutton United, Havant & Waterlooville, Lowestoft, and several others during and before my time at University in the North East of the country.”

His establishment within the world of the Non-League game is clearly evident. But, where did it all begin for Ben?

“I just loved playing football when I was a kid. There was never any pressure from my parents to be playing, or anything like that. I just wanted to be playing as much as possible. Then, as I grew up, I began to take it more seriously and to play at higher levels.”

Ben’s journey within the sport didn’t include an academy or anything when he was younger. However, leading up to him going to university, he felt that he was playing well and, therefore, had a chance to progress in the sport… “In the end, I decided to go to university, but ended up playing a lot more football there, and at a better level than I’d anticipated.”

He continues, “…The university team itself was one of the best in the country, and I got opportunities to play in the Northern leagues and even to train with Newcastle United and Hartlepool.”

The realisation that a career within the beautiful game might be possible arrived after Ben had finished his degree whereby, “…I got an offer from Hartlepool, which I jumped at, which was definitely a moment of realisation for me.”

Of course, at this level of the sport, Ben is the same as his peers in that he also has a career away from the pitch… “I’m a Personal Trainer. It’s a flexible job, which is nice. It’s also enjoyable helping my clients with their health and fitness. It gives me another purpose in my life on a day to day basis.”

That day to day life outside of the game sees Ben enjoying quality time with his girlfriend and their respective families. And, “…a good Sunday roast never fails to deliver either!”

Returning to matters on the field, Ben isn’t ignorant of the fact that some players can be superstitious. Yet, he says that he isn’t himself, despite admitting to picking up certain routines or habits in and around games, “…that I might stick with for a while, but it’s not the be all and end all.”

But, what about his future? Ben shares some of his hopes and dreams, “I’d like to continue my footballing career for as long as possible. I’d like to play at the highest level possible, whilst winning a few things along the way. Away from the game, I’d like to build a business or two and, maybe, live abroad at some point.”

In the meantime, though, there’s the current season to take care of and the immediate future of the club challenging for promotion to the National League. And, Ben finishes our conversation with these final words for the Dartford faithful…

“Thanks for the great welcome to the club, and for your support so far. It’s been an enjoyable start, let’s all push together to finish the season the way we’re all dreaming of!”

By Chris Palmer