From Wolverhampton Wanderers to Sunderland, defender Danny Batth has now made over 450 career appearances in the Football League, representing seven different clubs.
Danny, who is also an ambassador for the PFA’s Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS), caught up with us to talk about his career so far, his time at Sunderland and the positive impact AIMS is having on academy players on the elite pathway.
Congratulations on making 450 appearances – what does the milestone mean to you?
I’m delighted, but the big one for me is 500. Hopefully that can come in the next couple of years of my career.
450 games is obviously a huge achievement that I’m proud of, and it’s not something that everyone trying to make a career in the professional game goes on to achieve.
How are you enjoying life at Sunderland?
I’m loving my football at the minute. I’ve been here for just over 12 months now, and we’ve been promoted from League One, which was a fantastic season.
The club was stuck in that league for a while, so to be a part of the team that got promoted with the support we have here, the infrastructure – it’s a huge club in the North East that deserves those moments.
You play a huge role in the PFA’s Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS); why is it so important for you to be part of the project?
I’ve been involved since the creation, speaking to the PFA and Riz (Rehman).
We met years ago and asked the age-old question, ‘Why aren’t more Asian players involved in football?’ Particularly in England, given the amount of representation in the community, and it went from there.
Riz has committed so much time, and a lot of work has gone into meeting clubs, players and people behind the scenes to help drive change.
My role is just helping to be a point of contact to players who are emerging in the game where they might need a bit of support and mentorship. I’ve got a lot of experience in the game and will help in any way I can, whether that is offering advice or just a little bit of feedback on what the next steps might be.
Did you have any role models in the game early in your career?
I had role models but not necessarily any from an Asian background.
I’ll never see myself as a role model. I try to be a good professional but if other players use that as a template for what they can achieve in the game, then that’s great.
I just want to help young people who are trying to make a career and I’ll always be there to support that journey.
What impact have you seen the AIMS programme having in the game?
The numbers have grown massively; you just have to look at the number of people at St George’s Park in January.
The reach of the programme is growing by the day and by the week. That’s down to the work of Riz and the PFA, getting into clubs and speaking to everyone they can, trying to change the perception and creating the pathways.
We just need to be able to give them the support in clubs that will help them grow as players and have a bright future in the game
What is your advice to players in the academy system?
Anyone who is in an academy, or even those who are close to making it as young professionals, should get involved with the programme.
I’m hopeful we can help them forge a career at the top level or even further down the pyramid - we need to work on how we build those players up and how we build their confidence to show their potential.
How much has the game changed since you started playing?
It’s funny how much the game has changed. I’m showing my age now, but when I first started, centre-halves weren’t allowed in the box for goal kicks and if you were offside, you’re offside, so it’s changed a lot.
That’s the influence of diversity in the leagues now. Managers with different ideas from all corners of the world, and it’s the same with players and backroom staff too.
That’s part of the experience, learning from others around you and working with different managers and players throughout my career and adapting their ideas and making it impact my own style of play.
What does life post-football look like for Danny Batth?
I’m already talking to the PFA about doing my coaching badges and getting that side of things sorted and up to speed. I want to stay in the game.
As your playing years go on, you start taking in more from coaches – you start thinking, ‘what would the coach do’ in situations throughout the game, and that’s what comes with experience.
If I’m going to dip my toes into management, that’s one of the things that the PFA can offer their support on, and I’ll be looking to do that in the next couple of years.