Danny Guthrie has experienced both a Champions League game at Galatasaray with Liverpool and playing in the 14th tier with his mates – but Indonesia is a new challenge altogether.
Guthrie, who also played for Newcastle United, Reading and Blackburn, in January 2018 joined Mitra Kukar on a one-year deal as he aims to embrace everything football has to offer after a 12-year career in England.
The 30-year-old actually had offers to remain in the Championship having left Blackburn at the end of last season, but remarkably he turned them down to hold out for a move to Asia, his hunger for the English game gone.
“Ever since I was young I have wanted to play abroad, it’s just always been an ambition for me,” Guthrie says.
“Now is the perfect time. I am 30, I have two young children, who are seven and four, and a wife who also shares the same ambition to travel, so from a family point of view it’s perfect.
“From a career point of view, in England I have achieved all I can. I played for the team I love, Liverpool, played for a massive club in Newcastle, and played in the Premier League or Championship my whole career.
“I didn’t have the same excitement or hunger to play in the Championship or League One where the offers were coming from.
“There was nothing for me to prove. The only way I could ever play in the Premier League again was to be promoted, and I didn’t see that happening.”
Outsiders may have assumed joining Mitra Kukar was something of a last resort for Guthrie, but nothing could be further from the truth. He has been planning a foreign adventure since 2016, knowing his contract at Blackburn was coming to an end
To prove his commitment to his dream, rather than sign for a Football League club, Guthrie kept himself fit by playing with friends for Oakengates Athletic in the Sportsjam Regional League Premier Division to hold out for the move to Asia.
“I am a realist and I know where I am at in my career,” he says, “and to sign for someone in England was going to be a grind for me. I knew last Christmas what I wanted to do and the wheels were in motion from then.
“Oakengates is just a local team that a lot of my mates play for and is coached by one of my closest friends. I was in a situation where I had to wait for the Asian transfer window to open so to keep fit I would do my own training and play some football.
“This was an experience in itself playing with childhood friends on local pitches, but I love football and it helped me and definitely helped them.”
Carlton Cole endured a tough time in Indonesia in 2017, playing just three games in a three-month spell for Persib Bandung and underwhelming everyone who witnessed him play.
The club’s owner even said it was like playing with 10 men with him in the team, but it didn’t put off Guthrie.
“I saw Carlton Cole’s situation, but everyone is different and it didn’t worry me at all,” he says.
“The only reservations I had was leaving my family. My parents have been to every game my whole career home and away, and to not have them in the stadium will be tough. Also my two sisters and their children because we are a very close family.”
Asked if he consulted with anyone on the move, Guthrie says: “No advice from no one, I just jumped straight in and I’m learning on the job.
“I think everyone can benefit from it (playing abroad) in some way, especially from a life experience point of you, testing yourself, taking yourself out of your comfort zone, but everyone has different ambitions and needs, and this was one of mine.”
Football eh? Mitra Kukar new signing Danny Guthrie made his 1st team debut for Liverpool coming on as a sub for M Sissoko back in 2006. Now he replaces the Mali international in East Kalimantan!
— Jakarta Casual (@JakartaCasual) January 19, 2018
The new season starts in Indonesia in March, allowing Guthrie time to get used to every facet of life in the country he will be calling home for the next year, but so far he is settling in well.
“Indonesia is a beautiful place with great people and food. The weather is warm so it’s everything I wanted,” he says.
“The level of football is not the same standard of England, of course, but the players and people love football so the enthusiasm is the same. We have a Spanish coach who is very good and is bringing a European style to the team which I think will do very well here.
“I need to adapt to the language, but I have started picking up bits and pieces and I will continue to learn more. Everything else is no problem, the food, the weather, it’s easy for me to adapt to that.”
Some may think Guthrie is crazy to have turned down Championship clubs to play in Indonesia, but for now at least, he couldn’t be happier with his decision.
By Will Unwin