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Dudziak thriving in new right-back role

Jeremy Dudziak never really got going in the first half of the season after being hit by a series of injuries. A midfielder by trade, the 21-year-old may have taken a step back in terms of position at right-back, but his performances have advanced two steps forward. He has started each of the last four games and impressed in all of them.

"No player enjoys looking on from the sidelines," said Dudziak. "You want to help your teammates and you suffer with them from the stands." The left-sided player made just six appearances, including three starts, in the first half of the season but is fully fit now and happy to play wherever Ewald Lienen wants him. And not only is that at the back, it's also on the right instead of the left. Rugged defending and the odd slide tackle are now the order of the day rather than creative attacking play. "The position doesn't bother me – it's just on the wrong side," the former Dortmund man said with a grin.

Although Dudziak was born in Hamburg, he took his first footballing steps in the Ruhr. He grew up in Duisburg and started off at local club Victoria Beeck before spells at MSV Duisburg, FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Dudziak joined the Boys in Brown 18 months ago, and while he feels at home up north, he can still see himself moving home again at some point in the future. "I'm very happy here," he said. "I spend a lot of my free time in the Sternschanze part of town where I enjoy eating at a small fish restaurant, but obviously I miss my family and friends at home."

Dudziak's best friend in the team is Christopher Avevor. "He's a funny guy," he said. "We get on very well and have the same sense of humour. We laugh at the same jokes and can also laugh at ourselves, and that's very important to me. We're a pretty good fit."

The situation in the table is no laughing matter, however. Lienen's side are only separated from a relegation spot by goal difference. Nevertheless, Dudziak is in no doubt that the team will maintain their second division status: "We work hard during the week and are sticking together. If the players, the club and the supporters all pull together, we can do it!"

Victories over immediate rivals can make all the difference. Dudziak is expecting an extremely tough game against Karlsruhe on Monday and the preparations have been meticulous, but he's already raring to go. "The Millerntor under floodlights is always special," Dudziak said. "When it's dark and the lights go on and the first chants ring out, the atmosphere is something else."

The home support is so good it has left a lasting impression on him. "No matter what happens, the fans always get behind us. I'd not experienced anything like that before. I'll never forget the time we were doing our lap of the pitch after a home defeat and the fans started singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. It gave me goosebumps." With the backing of the fans, Dudziak is sure the Boys in Brown can take another step forward with a win on Monday.

Photo: Witters