Dudek enjoying chance in side

The Anfield faithful will tonight finally get a chance to thank goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek for his unforgettable performance in Istanbul in May last year. Without Dudek’s saves, both in open play and during the penalty shoot-out, Liverpool would not be European Champions. Dudek was an important member of the team that brought that fifth European Cup home. However, with the arrival of Pepe Reina demoting Dudek to second-choice, the Polish star has yet to appear at home for the Reds this season.

Dudek is in goal tonight because Reina is serving the last of his three-match ban for giving Arjen Robben the chance to fool the referee at Stamford Bridge ten days ago. Everyone assumes this will be Jerzy’s final appearance for Liverpool, but according to the Pole he’d already been told he’d get some games in before Reina’s sending off happened. Jerzy said: “I spoke to Rafa Benitez before the game against Chelsea and he said ‘Jerzy, you have to be prepared because you never know’. He told me that there were a lot of games and said, ‘I promise you that you will be playing in some of them’. He said, ‘I understand you getting frustrated and angry sometimes at not playing, and are thinking of the future, but your future is here at Liverpool’. He told me that if I do well then it will be no problem at all being prepared for the World Cup. Three days after we had that chat, Reina got red-carded and I was in.”

Dudek was quoted in the press – quotes he denies – as being really unhappy with life at Anfield this season, but he now seems happy that he’ll get enough games in to be able to play for Poland in Germany this summer: “I feel fine, and it has been good to be back again, getting some games at the highest level. I have waited for a very long time. But I don’t want to say I am happy, because it is always difficult to do that if you’re coming in for someone who is injured or red carded.”

Now Dudek has to wait and see whether Rafa will let him keep his place
in the side: “If I’d played all the games and then got sent off, of
course I would love to be back in after three matches but it is in the
hands of the boss and we have to accept that. If he says, ‘Jerzy you’ve
done fantastic but Jose deserves to play’, then that’s okay with me, I
will accept it. I definitely won’t worry about it. We are both good
friends and working for the team. But if you play say 10 games in a
row, maybe sometimes you do need a break for two or three weeks because
you may not be 100% mentally and physically fit.”

Dudek is delighted to be given this chance to prove himself: “I’m just
happy to get this run of games. I hadn’t played for three months, since
the beginning of November for the national team, and getting a chance
now keeps your confidence good. That confidence can get a bit low when
you are not in the side, but I wouldn’t say it was the most frustrating
time of my career. After the Champions League final I’d say it was the
most fantastic time of my life.”

Despite the various quotes that claimed Dudek was unhappy at sitting on
the bench for the Reds, Jerzy says it would probably not have stopped
him playing in the World Cup: “The people in Poland were a bit
surprised that I had not been getting in the Liverpool team and there
was a lot of speculation. They were saying, ‘How do you think you can
play for the national team when you’re not playing for your club?’ But
I always told them it was no problem because I had been in that
position before. Sometimes when you have a lot of experience as a
goalkeeper and you are mentally fresh, it isn’t a problem so much when
you don’t play. You just need to wait for your chance, and I know it
will come, whether it is in the league, cup or whatever, and they will
come again over the next three months.”

Rafa won’t reveal who’ll be in between the sticks this weekend in the
FA Cup. Scott Carson was given a chance against Luton, as Dudek wasn’t
considered to avoid him being cup-tied. That’s no longer a
consideration, but Rafa may choose to give Reina his spot straight
back: “Jerzy has not done bad. He has kept one clean sheet and conceded
a penalty that wasn’t. He is a goal-keeper with experience and you can
see that after the Champions League final he has more confidence. I
promise that I have not thought about who I will choose between Reina
and Dudek. I’ll only think about it later in the week.”