Happy Birthday Jerzy Dudek!
Born in Rybnik, Poland the goalkeeper started his career off at third division club Concordia Knurow and gained valuable experience making a total of 119 first-team appearances in his four years at the club. Moving to Poland’s top division in 1995/96, he started playing for Sokol Tychy and played 15 games for them.
Dutch side Feynoord saw he had great potential and the Poland international moved to Holland in 1996. The number one shirt was up for grabs and in the championship 1998/99 season Dudek was voted the best goalkeeper in the Dutch league. In his last campaign in Holland, Dudek was awarded the ‘Golden Shoe’ as the best player of the season.
Dudek was close to signing for Arsenal instead of Liverpool but the move fell through and he ended up on Merseyside and was simply outstanding in his first season. However, his second season was much worse and he ended up losing the number one spot to Chris Kirkland, who was bought the same day as Dudek, and had patiently waited for his chance. But he didn’t stay on the bench for long due to Kirkland suffering from niggling injuries and in late January he was back in goal for the Reds.
He again lost his place to Kirkland from October to December 2004 but as Liverpool went from strength to strength in the Champions League the Pole only missed one game as the competition reached the elimination round. He gained legendary status during the Champions League final in Istanbul after his Bruce Grobbelaar ‘wobbly legs’ impression during the penalty shoot-out and his incredible double save after Andriy Shevchenko helped Liverpool go on to win their fifth European Cup thank to the Poland Internationals heroics.
Speaking after the game Dudek said: ‘My brother phoned me in the morning and said Have you seen it on TV? And I said no’ and he said ‘You need to see it; the rebound, the second Shevchenko shot was the ‘Hand of God’.
However, his monumental Istanbul heroics seemed in a distant past as Dudek went from hero to zero in a couple of months as Rafa Benitez brought in Pepe Reina in the summer of 2005 and as soon as the season started Dudek was effectively his reserve. Due to his lack of first-team minutes, the Pole moved to Real Madrid to compete with Spain number one Iker Casillas, he made 12 appearances during his time at the Bernabeu. His final appearance was on 21st May 2011 during a 8-1 home win over Almeria, he was substituted in the 77th minute to a guard of honour from his Real Madrid teammates.
Jerzy Dudek will be remembered for his heroics during that Champions final and will forever be a favourite amongst Liverpool fans.
Article by Lauren Black
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