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Apparently you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper.
Well, that would explain why Everton’s newest professional – young Polish custodian Mateusz Taudul – is walking around Finch Farm doing Only Fools and Horses impressions.
It has been quite a journey for Taudul, who was plucked from obscurity in his homeland after being happened upon by an Everton scout while playing a trial game for Blackburn Rovers.
Snapped up from MSP Szamotuły – a feeder club for Lech Poznan that also produced Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski and Celtic’s Lukasz Zaluska – to be nurtured in the Blues’ Academy at Finch Farm.
And on his recent 17th birthday, the age of eligibility for professional terms, he penned his first full-time contract.
‘Lovely jubbly’, he quite literally said.
Rewind 18 months, however, and he thought his big chance had come when he was called over for a trial at Ewood Park.
Some fine saves and a clean sheet in a friendly against Sunderland followed, and he left the pitch feeling he could not have done any more. He had impressed that day, and more people than he had reckoned on.
Yet for whatever reason Blackburn opted against a deal following a wrangle with MSP and Taudul found himself back at home, distraught, contemplating what might have been.
“I thought that was it,” he admitted. “I was back in Poland and thought my chance to go to England had gone. I love England and English football and know it is for me so I was upset.
“About two months passed and I got the call to say Everton wanted me to go for a trial. I was so excited, so happy, and knew that I had to do everything I could to make the most of the opportunity.”
If joining up with the Blues wasn’t exciting enough, within days Taudul was on a plane to South America to represent the club in an international youth tournament.
“I got to Everton and began training and probably only three days after arriving they asked me if I wanted to go to Brazil,” he explained.
“They were going over to play this tournament and I couldn’t believe I was going. A week earlier I had just been training as normal in Poland and then all of a sudden I was going to Brazil with Everton, I couldn’t have dreamt it.
“I thought I played well over there,” he added. “I played about six games and thankfully the club wanted me to stay.”
After that it was a case of settling into his new life at Everton, something he has managed easily, particularly with the help of a fellow Eastern European.
Another footballing cliché is, of course, that goalkeepers stick together.
And this is particularly true of Taudul, who roomed with fellow stopper, Adam Davies, on summer tour and has since been socialising with Jan Mucha, the Slovakian international who serves as No.2 to Tim Howard.
“I am good friends with Jan as we can speak to each other and understand each other,” Taudul added. “He has a lovely family and in his house I can eat polish food!
“He buys Polish food as, although he is Slovakian, our cultures and languages are very close.
“His wife is great and he has a young family, a young son who is about six and a younger daughter and we sometimes go on trips and days out together.”
The fact the club opted to hand Taudul a three-year contract for his first professional deal is testament to how highly rated he is at the Academy.
Now he is desperate to make the most of his chance and emulate the achievements of other Polish stoppers.
Europe’s top leagues are littered with his goalkeeping countrymen, and despite being the nephew of a Polish international striker, Jacek Bayer, and his father Darek being an outfield player of repute, Taudul only ever envisaged a career between the sticks.
He said: “I started playing at seven, my parents took me to a small club, my local team, and I played with children four years older than me. My father played out for the Polish national youth team and my uncle was a Polish international striker, but for some reason right from the start I only wanted to be a goalkeeper.
“We have a lot of very good goalkeepers from Poland, and not so many good outfield players, I don’t know why! Our goalkeepers play in the best leagues. It is a speciality of my country. It is strange.
“I am getting better all time at Everton but I still need to improve my skills. Finch Farm is amazing and the goalkeeping coaches are so good.
“I am very happy here. It is a different world to the Polish league and Polish clubs – everything is different. It is fantastic. All I want to do is be the best goalkeeper I can be and play at the highest level. It is all that is on my mind.”
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