MATT Duke, Sheffield United’s prospective new signing, has overcome many challenges during his footballing career.
But helping Hull City climb from League One into the Premier League or dealing with the pain of relegation pale into insignificance compared with his battle to overcome testicular cancer three years ago.
Duke, who spent less than four months on the sidelines before beating the disease after being diagnosed midway through the 2007/08 campaign, now dedicates much of his time helping to raise awareness of the condition.
Hence the goalkeeper’s call for football supporters on both sides of the Steel City divide to take part in the Keep Your Eye on the Ball run at Rother Valley tomorrow.
“It’s a cause that, for obvious reasons, I try to promote, and it’s a very important one too,” said Duke.
“If women find a lump or something similar then they are probably more likely to go straight to the doctor than a man.
“There’s a tendency for us to try and ignore things like that but, if it’s caught early enough, then it’s amazing what people can do.”
Having severed his ties with the KC Stadium, Duke has spent part of the summer training with Danny Wilson’s squad and delivered an impressive display as a second-half substitute during Tuesday’s friendly at Worksop Town.
With Wilson keen to expose George Long, Steve Simonsen’s teenage deputy, to the rigours of first-team competition, Duke was not included in the party which has travelled to Malta for games against Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians next week.
But, despite being omitted from the latest phase of United’s pre-season preparations, he remains hopeful of winning a permanent transfer to the club he has followed since childhood.
“I’m from Sheffield and I’m a United supporter so, yes, of course it would be great to come back,” admitted Duke. “But it all depends on what the manager wants and how he feels I’ve done.
“I was here when I was a young lad but didn’t feature and so I’d love to think I might have a chance of doing that now.
“This football club means a lot to me. I’ve been at Hull a long time but I still live in Sheffield and I’ve always taken a close interest in what’s been going on.
“Whenever it’s been possible I’ve always come along to watch games.”
Duke’s most recent visit to Bramall Lane was for the first leg of May’s FA Youth Cup final against Manchester United.