FORMER Preston North End and Bradford City apprentice Ben Hudson never made a professional start but now he is reaching for the sky with support from the PFA.
Hudson, 27, who plays part-time for non-league Lancaster City, is an aircraft engineer at BAE Systems in Lancashire, working on the Typhoon fighter jets.
“Playing professional football was my dream, and one day David Wetherall, (Now Head of Youth Development at the Football League) came in to talk to us,” he said.
“David said: ‘Lads, joining the Professional Footballers’ Association will be the best £20 you’ll ever spend.
“He added that if we needed any help later on in life you could call on them, and that you’d also be a union member for life.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Hudson, who was released by Preston when he was 16, added: “My future aspiration is to progress through the ranks at BAE Systems, and this year I enrolled for the Engineering Higher National Diploma.
“I wasn’t sure, though, if I could afford the cost and then I remembered David’s words.
“I contacted the Education Department at the PFA who were absolutely brilliant.
“They gave me great advice and agreed to pay for half of my course fees.
“I’m so grateful to the PFA because without the union’s help I don’t think I could have managed it financially.”
The fact that Hudson plays football at all is down to his iron will and determination after being diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic when he was only eight years old.
“It is a huge commitment, semi-pro football, a busy job at BAE Systems and keeping my Diabetes in check,” said Hudson who has made 200 appearances for Lancaster City.
“I have my set routine for match day and diet during the week.
“I sometimes have to use an insulin pump at half time, but I do it because I adore football and have loved playing at Lancaster for the last eight years.”
Blackpool-born Hudson added: “Even then, aged eight, I had that drive, that I wanted to play for Preston North End – it was my club.
“The managers David Moyes, Billy Davies and Paul Simpson would always show a keen interest in the youth team, encouraging you to work hard and apply yourselves.
“Although I was very young at Preston, that powerful work ethic rubbed off on me.
“They would come down and watch and one day Billy Davies said: ‘Well done son. You work very hard and shook my hand.
“That meant a lot to me and I’ve taken that work ethic into my career with BAE Systems who have been so supportive.”
He added: “I help put the Typhoon cockpit together, which is highly specialised work, and, hopefully, I’ll be involved with the construction of the new Tempest jet at BAE Systems
By Tony Dewhurst