Feature

Bothroyd blazing a trail for England in Japan

Jay Bothroyd had a great time with Cardiff City. (AAP) Source: PA Wire

Jay Bothroyd has always been one to break the mould. The England international has a reputation as an articulate player - not afraid to speak his mind on issues of social justice - while his career is littered with moves that others may have thought of as ‘too risky’.

A youth career at Arsenal was stunted after a sideline incident with a coach. Bothroyd moved to Italy at the age of 21 where he played in the same team as Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son Al Saadi - and Socceroos goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac.

A returned to the UK for Bothroyd resulted in a goal-laden spell with Cardiff City and he joined a select group of players to earn an England cap while playing in the football league.

He ventured to Thailand and a fortnight ago started his career in Japanese football with a bang, grabbing a brace on debut for J. League Division 2 side Jubilo Iwata.

It’s a flow of footballing life that he wouldn’t have any other way.

“I’ve achieved everything I wanted to as a kid growing up. It was my dream to play professional football, to play in the Premiership, and a dream to play for my country,” Bothroyd said.

“Even though it is only the one cap, I can say that I played for my country, how many other players can say that? So I’m comfortable with the way things turned out.”

Yet, at just 32 there are several chapters still to be written and Bothroyd hopes they will be in Japan after a frustrating spell in Thailand with Muangthong United last season.

“I kind of felt like I wasted a year of my career in Thailand, the league is miles behind Japan and the professionalism is totally different between the two countries,” he explained.

“I remember coming to Asia on a tour with QPR and I got a good feeling even then, the people are fanatical about football and the stadiums and facilities are first class.

“Everything here and at my club particularly is organized for players to concentrate on training and playing and it’s a really professional, family orientated, club right from the people at the top to the cleaning people to the kit staff."

One of those people at the top, who has had a roundabout crossing of paths with his new striker, is the club’s coach Hiroshi Nanami.

One of the finest midfielders Japan has ever produced, the 42 year-old is in his first full year as a senior coach but had a spell during his playing days with Venezia, the region where Bothroyd’s wife’s family hails from.

“It’s strange, that whole side of the family is really familiar with Nanami and now here he is my coach but he has a good way of thinking about the game," Bothroyd said.

“I arrived quite late in the pre-season but he took good care of me physically and tactically we are set up well.

“He wants his backline to be steady and aggressive and obviously not concede but in the 4-2-3-1 we play he really encourages rotation, movement and link up play.

“When we lose the ball there’s that kind of ‘five seconds of fury’ rule where we have to react and try to win it back as quickly as possible so I know I’ll get my chances.”

They were chances he took with determination as the new season kicked off with Bothroyd scoring the first two in a 3-1 win over Giravanz Kitakyushu - and he’s already been impressed by the standard of football in Japan.

“We have several players in our team who have been at World Cups and the level is good, I live in an area called Hamamatsu which has produced many national team players and I can see some great young talent at Jubilo,” the striker said.

For a nation that travelled far and wide in its colonial pursuits, Britain has never had a reputation for exporting footballers in Europe let alone in Asia, with Gary Lineker’s modest stint at Nagoya the only spell by an England international of note in Japan.

It’s a trend that the globetrotting Bothroyd hopes will change as the English Premier League struggles to open the door for young, home-grown players.

“I still closely follow what’s happening back home and watch Match of the Day regularly but what I think needs to happen is that more English players should look to play abroad,” Bothroyd said.

“If you’re a young English player at, say, Chelsea, United or Manchester City you can forget about it but I think the lack of people moving is often a cultural thing.

“The young players are often content to just play Under-21's and going to a non-English speaking country is often seen as a problem but I think if our national team wants to have success these players need to step out of their comfort zones.”

That’s exactly what the trailblazing Bothroyd has done right from the early stages of his career and what one of the former giant's of the Asian club scene in Jubilo hopes he can continue to do for it.