Once labelled the ‘new Steven Gerrard’, former Liverpool and Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie is now plying his trade in Indonesia’s Liga 1.
Without a club after leaving relegated Blackburn at the end of the 2016/17 season, Guthrie kept his fitness in check by training with hometown side, Telford-based Oakengates Athletic of the Sportsjam Regional League Premier Division, managed by Guthrie’s lifelong friend Shaun Hughes.
Offers to stay in England were on the table, but Guthrie opted for a new challenge in the form of Mitra Kukar. Other well-known players in Indonesia’s top division include Michael Essien and Peter Odemwingie.
“I knew long before the 2016/17 season finished I wanted to play abroad,” says the 31-year-old. “It’s been an ambition of mine for a long time. I had offers from clubs in the Championship and League One, but I just didn’t have the same excitement to play at that level anymore. I felt I’d achieved everything I could in England, so I knew it was time to look for something different to excite me.”
While Carlton Cole didn’t fare too well in Asia, playing just three games in a three-month spell with for Persib Bandung, Guthrie is loving his new adventure.
“The standard here is probably League One or Two,” he explains. “Each team has three foreign players. The rest are local players who are very enthusiastic, but lack technical and physical qualities.
“The facilities are generally good. Football is massive out here. You can play in front of a very hostile stadium with 50,000 fans.”
Unsurprisingly, the move to a new country thousands of miles from home was something of a culture shock, but Guthrie has embraced the challenge.
“It’s very different, but it’s what I was looking for,” states the midfielder. “I wanted something new. It’s a very religious country with the majority being Islamic, so that plays a major role in the day-to-day life.
“Rice is the most popular dish, so I’ve had no problem with the food and I’ve started speaking bits of Bahasa, which is the local language. There aren’t many English speakers out here, so I’ve had to try and pick it up.
“My wife and two children are out here. They’re loving it. We have a private tutor for the kids and they’re in the pool every day in the sun. It’s great for them. I only miss my family, nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get home and see friends, but I’m not homesick one bit.
“I would recommend it to anyone who’s struggling for a club or, like me, wants a new experience. The fan bases are massive and the love you get is unreal.”
After a brief stint at Manchester United as a youngster, Guthrie made his first steps in the professional world at Liverpool, making his full debut in the sedate surroundings of a Champions League clash at Galatasaray in December 2006. Guthrie’s box-to-box runs and tenacious tackling quickly saw him likened to his hero Gerrard.
“I didn’t feel the pressure of that tag,” he says. “He was my idol coming through at Liverpool and he was a very special player, but I was never going to get to his level. I’m a realist and all anyone can do is give their best and hopefully get a bit of luck and that’s what I did. I’m very content with how things turned out.”
A smattering of first-team appearances with the Reds followed, but Guthrie struggled to establish himself as a regular. Loan stints at Championship Southampton and top-flight Bolton preceded a permanent move to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle in the summer of 2008. Despite being just 21, Guthrie again found himself compared to club greats.
“Young Danny Guthrie, he’s a little bit of a mix, for the older fans, between Paul Bracewell and Rob Lee,” said Keegan at the time. “He’s that type of player. Good engine, a very good passer of the ball. A link-up player who can get around the field and, of course, in the Premier League you need that.”
Guthrie played 104 games for the Magpies in four years, tasting relegation from and promotion to the Premier League, before falling out of favour and heading to top-tier Reading on a free transfer in June 2012. His time with the Royals was mixed: the midfielder clashed with manager Brian McDermott a few months after joining and, when he refused to travel to a midweek game at Sunderland, was fined two weeks’ wages. Reading were relegated at the end of Guthrie’s first season in Berkshire.
He fared better under Nigel Adkins in the Championship, but with his contract running down Guthrie was allowed to join Fulham on loan. Then came his two-year stay at Blackburn, which ended with demotion to League One.
“When I look back on my career, there isn’t anything I would have done differently,” insists Guthrie. “I’ve been very lucky to play for some big clubs and like anyone had many ups and many downs.
“I do wish I’d signed for Fulham after my loan spell. I loved my time there with some great people. I wanted it, the club wanted it, but sometimes in football agents play a big role and unfortunately, I think this was the case at the time.
“But I’m happy and I have no desire to return to England. There are so many opportunities out here for me. I want to stay overseas and make a mark.”