Speak to most professional football clubs and they will tell you that a local player of Asian origin represents the single most important milestone in their efforts to encourage more ‘brown’ faces on the terraces and on the field of play. Over the years few players of Asian origin have made that elusive breakthrough into the professional ranks. Currently plying their trade are Michael Chopra (Cardiff City), Zesh Rehman (Bradford City), Rickki Bains (Darlington), Aman Verma (Leicester City) and Netan Sansara (Walsall). In the last 30 years not one Asian player has managed to succeed in top flight football on a regular and sustained basis. And for those that make the grade the weight of pressure and expectations are totally disproportionate. Set against this background we welcome the latest entrant on the scene – Danny Batth who comes from a Punjabi background... and is a local Punjabi Wolf.
What does it feel like to be a British Asian (Or do you prefer British Indian?) professional footballer playing for a team in the English Premier League?
Actually I prefer British Indian. It’s something I am very proud of along with my family who have always supported me with everything like lifts and kit. Being one of the very few players of an Asian background is something I hope will change in the near future as others of the same background work their way through
the ranks at other clubs at every level in the game. The only first team player of Asian background I am aware of is Michael Chopra but hopefully I’ll break through if I keep working hard and improving my game.
Did your parents always encourage you to pursue a career in professional football. Was it a case of Mum or Dad, or both, being there on the touchline watching your every game?
My mom and dad have always backed me 100% in my football which I think has helped me get to where I am now, they have always managed to juggle work and other things to see me play as much as possible, especially when you are young it means a lot when you have got encouragement. My parents have always believed in me as well which helped give me the confidence to pursue football through all the different levels to get to where I am now, and have the chance to progress.
How did you get spotted by Wolves?
I was 11 playing for Swinmoor Rangers in the Brierley Hill and Dudley District League in a semi final when Les Green awarded me the ‘man-of-the-match’ award as we won the
semi final on penalties. I then got the ‘man of-the-match’ award again in the final as we won the Bilston cup.
Which person has had the most influence on your development since you joined Wolves?
There have been a lot of people at Wolves who have influenced me as a player since I started full time at 16. The youth coach at the time John Perkins helped me through my first two years which were hard following my shoulder operation which left me out of football for 8 months. Now Steve Weaver, the Development Coach at the club, is working on areas of my game to improve me as a player. I am also involved in some of Terry Connor’s and the gaffers sessions which are always good, as playing with the first team helps you to improve.
At the age of 18 you were made captain of the reserve team containing a number of much more experienced professionals, including fringe first team players, how do you feel about being given that level of responsibility?
Yes I have captained the team in the last few games which I have enjoyed, I don’t see it as pressure because I love to organise and it gets me into good habits of how to talk on the pitch and encourage people, which is important when playing at centre back. The experienced professionals in the group have really helped me with training and playing, as a young player to learn what it’s all about and how to do things properly on and off the pitch.
Apologies for the asking the question because it must have been asked of you many times before: Why are there so few players of British Asian origin in the game?
Ha, the question everyone asks, well I think it’s all set to change soon, currently I don’t believe the past generation have been steered into football at all due to such a small percentage of people being successful
in football, the chances of not making it are high. I also believe that the lack of an Indian role model for young players just starting out to aspire to, is also a problem as there is still a wait for a first one. I have seen a lot of young Asians playing football so it will just be a matter of time before they are just as common as other ethnic backgrounds.