FC Halifax Town: Halifax is the latest stop on Duku’s English odyssey

Halifax v Barnet at The Shay. Manny Duku. Photo; John Bradley
Halifax v Barnet at The Shay. Manny Duku. Photo; John Bradley

It’s been quite a journey for Manny Duku since arriving in England four years ago.

When Duku left Heerenveen, he floated about the amateur game in his native Holland, going nowhere.

But, on his uncle’s advice, Duku moved to England in the summer of 2015, aged 21, and has worked his way to the professional ranks with Cheltenham.

“I played for local teams where I lived in Amsterdam and then from there, I went to Heerenveen.

“Then I dropped back to non-league in Holland.

“Four years ago, my uncle said it was better for me to come to England to try and get my chance, because it’s a bigger country and if you do well you get more of an opportunity.

“He lives here and knows about football. He said he knew I would get an opportunity if I did what I had always done.

“In Holland I was just playing football locally and it wasn’t really taking me anywhere.

“I wasn’t playing anything too serious, just kick-abouts with friends.

“But my uncle said ‘no, I know you can do it’.

“When you’re young and in an academy you feel like you can do it, but if it doesn’t work out how you thought it would, then it’s a massive hit on everything you believed in.”

An email from Duku got him a place at Oxford City, near to his Aylesbury base. And so the adventure began.

“I joined Oxford City when I came here, I did a pre-season there, but then they signed another striker,” he said.

“But the manager there helped me to go to Chesham because he liked me, and said ‘go there, the manager will help you out’.

“So I joined Chesham, then Hemel Hempstead, then King’s Langley, Banbury, and then I went to Hayes and Yeading, then I got my move to Cheltenham.

“At first, you’re leaving a lot of people behind, but at the end of the day, you need to grab a brighter future for yourself.

“If you believe in yourself, and people believe in you, you just need to go for it, get your head down, work hard and everything will hopefully work out.

“Holland is a smaller country so the chances are a bit harder to get into pro football.

“But if you believe in yourself, no matter where you are, hopefully your chance will come and you will grab it with both hands.”

Duku is now settled in England after a period of adaptation to the realities of non-league football.

“My mum is here as well now. I have a house in Milton Keynes.

“At first I didn’t even drive so it was a lot of trains, sometimes taxis after games on Tuesday nights.

“But it was easier after I got my car.

“The manager I had at King’s Langley, Paul Hughes, is the one who also brought me to Hayes and Yeading, so I knew him already.

“He told me ‘I know what you’re capable of, you have everything to play higher up’ so I listened to him.

“Sometimes we had arguments and fights, but sometimes we loved each other. He has really helped me and has made a very positive impact on everything I’ve done in England so far.”

Duku, 26, who is of Ghanaian parentage and from a family of eight siblings, describes himself as a hard-working goalscorer.

That was certainly a fair description of his time at Hayes, where a club record 39 goals last season, 33 in the league, earned him a move to League Two Cheltenham.

“That was what I always wanted, and I knew I would do it,” he said proudly of his move into the professional game.

“It was a very big moment for me to go there.

“The manager who signed me (Gary Johnson) got sacked, but everything happens for a reason.

“I did alright on loan at Barnet, now I’m at Halifax.

“It’s all good experience for me. Loans help me because if I score a lot here you never know where it can take me.

“I see everything as a positive and I’m grateful for every moment that comes.”

Duku’s priority remains establishing himself at Cheltenham.

“Hopefully yeah. At the end of the day, I signed for them to do well for them.

“But if it doesn’t work out there, hopefully there’s other opportunities.

“I’m just wanting to do well for Halifax and hopefully that will make other opportunities for me.

“Hopefully the club will do well and build from there and I can build from there as well.

Despite finding opportunities limited so far at Cheltenham, Duku retains the belief he can cut it in the professional ranks.

“I’ve seen the level at League Two and I know that if I work hard, and keep the belief, and someone believes in me and gives me that opportunity, then I’ll definitely score goals for them.”