The Theatre of Dreams, home of Manchester United. Unquestionably, the one club that every boy who is born with a football at his feet, hopes will come calling for his services one day. Defender, Joe Dudgeon was fortunate enough to have his request answered back in 2006 at just 16 years of age when he signed to be part of their scholarship programme.
Lifting the lid on his time at the English Defending Champions on Tuesday evening, Joe rather sheepishly admitted that he found Sir Alex Ferguson rather “intimidating”. It’s difficult to believe that he was on his own in that regard as the fearsome Scot, aside from being a master tactician, was universally renowned for his half-time hairdryer treatment. That said “He (Fergie) had a lot of time for everyone” and Joe clearly recognizes that starting out at United has given him the perfect platform to achieve footballing lift-off. As with most things in life though, it has taken the flower buds some time to blossom and after four arduous seasons with the developmental squad and then the reserves, it was difficult to stomach when the rewards of regular first-team football were not forthcoming. It was time to look elsewhere.
“At United I was always a youngster. There were a lot of people there … you were a minority”.
Having achieved his move to a “refreshing” Hull City in 2011, the player capped 4 times by Northern Ireland at under 21 level, was looking to assert himself in a then combative championship outfit. The transition to life on the east coast was reasonably plain sailing, particularly since other United graduates had recently rocked up at the KC stadium. Despite excelling at the beginning of the 2012/13 season with nine solid performances, a devastating knee injury was lying in wait to crock the left back for the rest of the campaign. As he slowly begins a return to full fitness, the 22 year suggested that “[a lengthy spell on the sidelines] was torture but it made you appreciate being in football”. Renewed by that sense of optimism, he is looking forward to pulling on a Hull City jersey once again and will no doubt have an eye on this season’s Boxing Day fixture. It reads: Manchester United (H).
Following the press conference, I was keen to catch up with Joe and plumb deeper into life at the top. However, the full-back also found himself quizzed about whether young, home grown players are all too frequently overlooked for first-team places.