FORMER Doncaster Rovers goalkeeping ace Jan Budtz is set to swap saving the ball for helping to save youngsters from a life of crime.
The Danish star, who became an instant hero with fans after saving a string of penalties on his debut in Rovers’ 2005 Carling Cup penalty shoot-out win over Premier League giants Manchester City, has returned to the club to take up a new role as a social worker.
Jan, who still plays non-league football for Gainsborough Trinity, made 27 appearances for Rovers before spells at Wolves, Oldham and Hartlepool, but has now returned to take up a role within the club’s community department, working with youngsters likely to re-offend, become involved in anti-social behaviour or even substance misuse.
He said: “Social work was what I was doing before I played in professional football in Denmark – then I was scouted by Rovers.
“I was a social worker in Denmark, but the qualifications didn’t stand over here and so I went back to Doncaster College. I’m only playing football part-time now, so when this role came up it was an opportunity for me to blend the football and social work sides, so it was ideal for me.
“It’s also local and I know the people from in and around Doncaster from when I used to play, so it ticks every box.
“It’s a place I’m very fond of and I’ve still got a lot of friends here, and I must say it’s great to be back.”
As the club’s social inclusion officer, Jan will be working alongside various national and local groups to help young people enjoy structured activities.
He said: “It gives them something to do, something to put on their CV. It gives them a base for future jobs and relationships, and a chance to make new friends.”
And Jan, who played for Rovers from 2005-07, is convinced his hero status from his playing days will be a key factor in his new role.
He said: “Hopefully my background will give me an opportunity to have their ear for a moment – if I was a year 11 student I would love to get involved.”
And he still has fond memories of the night when his name went down in the Rovers record books for his heroics against City, when Rovers won 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
He said: “It was all a bit of blur for me then. Rovers’ regular keeper Andy Warrington came off injured and I came in and made a couple of saves before it went to penalties.
“At that time I’d only really been on the pitch for 15-20 minutes so there was no warm-up, just straight on. I saved two penalties and then it ended with me getting ‘man of the match’ on Sky TV.
It was a bit surreal back then, but when I look back at it now, it was probably one of my biggest achievements.
“It was my debut in the side and I saved a couple of penalties against a strong Premier League side. It was a great night for Rovers.”