Big Interview: From Anfield to the Black Country – via Newcastle, Blackburn and Bali for Danny Guthrie

But for current Walsall midfielder Danny Guthrie, that’s exactly how it all started.

The 32-year-old, who was born in Shrewsbury and attended Thomas Telford School, has led an impressive career at the top of the game, beginning in the youth ranks at Liverpool.

As a teenager coming through the academy the dream was to be a part of that star-studded squad and his debut finally came from the bench in a 4-3 League Cup win over Reading at Anfield, in 2006.

“I went full-time and through all the age groups and the first team base is separate from the academy,” Guthrie said.

“When you get to 17 or 18 you turn pro and your aim is to get to Melwood with the first team – that was my path.

“Rafa Benitez was the manager at the time and I got myself into a few squads and then made my debut, which was probably my proudest moment – to make my debut at Anfield.

“Steven Gerrard, without a shadow of a doubt had the biggest influence on me.

“A lot of coaches had a big impact on me and my development but Steven Gerrard is Mr Liverpool, he was my hero and then to get to Melwood and meet him, train with him – he had the biggest influence on me as a player.”

Although those first appearances are special for any up and coming player, that first start is always memorable.

On December 5 2006 it came, away in the hostile atmosphere of Turkey and while it ended in a 3-2 loss, it was a huge moment in Guthrie’s career.

“My first start was away at Galatasaray, it was an eye opener,” he said.

“Liverpool were already through so there wasn’t an awful amount riding on the game, but for me it was massive.

“The fans were what you see on the TV, with the flares leading up to the ground, banging on the bus – and in the ground it was a great atmosphere.

“It was a proud moment to play in the Champions League.

“You don’t really appreciate it at the time because it’s your path and you think it’s normal – you don’t take it in, just living through it.

“Now when I look back I think, wow.

Danny Guthrie

“Every day was a dream, I was around superstars and learning – living my dream.”

Following his Champions League experience, Guthrie didn’t feature again until January 9 2007, when he played 90 minutes in the 6-3 home loss to Arsenal in the League Cup.

He played again a month later, coming off the bench in a 2-1 Premier League loss to Newcastle, before heading out on loan to Southampton in the Championship.

He made 12 appearances for the Saints and got to the play-off semi-finals.

In the following season he had a successful loan spell at Bolton in the Premier League, featuring in 35 games across all competitions – including the UEFA Cup.

“It was a great season for me because I was never going to break into Liverpool’s first team at the time,” he added.

“The competition was ridiculous, Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano.

“The season at Bolton did wonders for me.”

After that, his time at Liverpool came to an end. Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle came calling and made a permanent swoop for the 20-year-old – but the season didn’t pan out as planned as the club were relegated in 18th place – before winning the Championship title in the following season.

“I’d played against Keegan’s Newcastle and with his Liverpool connections he got a deal done for me,” Guthrie said.

“He was brilliant for the couple months he was there with me. His enthusiasm and the confidence he gave me as a player was brilliant – he threw me in at 20 to be Newcastle’s main midfielder.

“Unfortunately he left soon after and it ended up being five manager’s in my first year at Newcastle – it was mental.

“They had Nicky Butt, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith – on paper that Newcastle squad was full of players who had played at the highest level and on paper that team to get relegated was scandalous.

“There were a lot of problems off the field that came onto the field.

“To go down was devastating and no one saw it coming, it was a massive shock.

“We had Michael Owen up front but after thinking we’d be alright, with 10 games left we still weren’t safe.

“It gave us a chance to re-group and the next season was brilliant, we romped home with the Championship title with over 100 points.”

After four years with The Magpies, Guthrie then had three years with Reading and two years with Blackburn, with a loan spell at Fulham in between.

“Playing for the big clubs all my career has been enjoyable and I wouldn’t change any of them, not one club I’ve been at,” he added.

Having played all of his career at top English clubs, and still only 30 years old, the midfielder’s next move raised a lot of eyebrows.

After leaving Blackburn, he returned home to Shropshire to train with Oakengates Athletic in the Shropshire Premier League, in order to keep his fitness before the season on a new patch was set to begin.

When you think of British players playing abroad, you think of the glorious sunshine of the MLS, playing for LA Galaxy, or the bulging bank account playing in China.

What you don’t think of, is Indonesia’s Liga 1 – but that’s exactly where Guthrie found himself with Mitra Kukar.

“I was coming to the end of my contract at Blackburn and I’d been offered a new deal and I’d just turned 30,” he added.

“It was an ambition of mine to go and play abroad and go and test myself in a new country with a new language.

“My kids were still young enough to do it and I felt if I waited any longer then I wouldn’t be able to take the kids.

“They could live in Bali for a year, which was brilliant, and it felt that I had to do it at that time.

“I was really excited to do it and I loved every minute of it.

“It was testing but great, the standard of living was brilliant and we really enjoyed it.

Danny Guthrie

“My worry was that if I signed for Blackburn for another two or three years, I might not have had the opportunity to go somewhere.

“I had to do it, I’d always wanted to go abroad and be put in a situation to learn something new.

“No-one goes abroad without it being financially rewarding and that was a factor as well, but it was something I always wanted to do and it felt like the right time.”

After a year in Southeast Asia, Guthrie moved back to England and arrived at Walsall – a move he was delighted to make.

“I got back from Asia and it was coming towards the summer, I had a phone call with the manager and he’s great with his enthusiasm,” he said.

“It was a new project for him and Walsall after coming down from League One.

“Location obviously played a part because it was ideal for me, but after speaking to the manager and coming in for a week in pre-season and meeting everyone, I was desperate to join.”

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