PATRICK KANYUKA: "MOVING ABROAD WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME"
In part one of this exclusive interview the former QPR man reflects on leaving England, lower league football, and meeting Mika Lönnström.
For many British footballers the thought of moving across the English Channel is out of the question. But for Patrick Kanyuka leaving home was the best decision he ever made.
"When I left England it was hard because I was quite young and I hadn’t lived anywhere else before, " said the 29-year-old Londoner. "But leaving my comfort zone helped me develop as a footballer and it made me who I am today."
Kanyuka, now at Shan United in Myanmar, has had the privilege of experiencing four countries since departing England six years ago.
He started his career at Championship side Queens Park Rangers in 2004 where he made his professional debut under Ian Holloway.
He spent three and a half seasons at Loftus Road, making over 20 first team appearances, but his time in London was plagued by injuries.
After QPR Kanyuka had short spells at Swindon and later Northampton Town before he realised that lower league football was not his cup of tea. So when he was offered the chance to join CFR Cluj of Romania, he did not hesitate.
"I did some research about the club, the league and the country and then I knew that I had to take this opportunity," Kanyuka said.
"But at the beginning it was difficult for me to settle in. It was my first experience in a new country and I didn’t know anybody.
"The level of football that I saw there was also a shock to me. The standards were very high and different from what I was use to. The Romanian top flight is very technical, more than the Championship.
"I didn’t know football like that before I went to Cluj. But moving abroad was the best thing that happened to me."
After signing for Cluj in July 2009 Kanyuka made ten first team appearances during the first half of the season. He was also named on the bench for one Europa League match against PSV Eindhoven.
Midway through the campaign he was loaned out to fellow top-flight side Unirea Alba Lulia where he featured regularly in the first team.
But his experience in Romania turned sour when his loan spell ended in relegation and his contract at Cluj was terminated in June 2010. Despite Cluj finishing the season as champions, they had failed to pay their players for several months.
As a result, Kanyuka returned to England where he had a short trial at Leeds United. He eventually joined Lincoln City in January 2011, a decision he refers to as the "biggest mistake" of his life.
"I took the advice of a terrible agent and went to Lincoln until the end of that season," he said. "They were struggling in League Two and I was really unfit having not played any games since July.
"They put me straight into the team when I wasn’t ready. It was one of the worst stages of my career."
Kanyuka’s time in Lincoln ended in another relegation before he moved to Conference side Tamworth FC, with whom he featured in the FA Cup third round against Everton.
He then had further short spells at Staines Town and Maidenhead United before deciding to leave England permanently.
"I needed to get away for good," he said. "I said to myself that anything is better than this. Lower leagues are all about rubbish pitches and awful long-ball football. It doesn’t suit my style of play.
"Then a friend of mine, who was playing in Malaysia, put me in touch with Roi Et United in Thailand. I had never heard of them before and I didn’t know anything about Thai football but I said yes almost straight away."
Kanyuka signed for Roi Et during pre-season in January 2013. The club were in the third tier and were targeting promotion to the First Division.
Soon after his arrival Kanyuka met MnM Coaching’s Mika Lönnström, who was Roi Et’s Academy Director at the time.
The pair formed a good understanding with one another after Lönnström was appointed head coach midway through the season. And under his guidance Roi Et finally gained promotion.
"Mika and I sort of clicked instantly," said Kanyuka. "We were similar and we thought alike. He also made an instant impact on the team and he earned the players’ respect very quickly.
"At first they found it difficult to adapt to his tough and high-pressing regime. But from what I saw they worked hard for him because of how he presented himself.
"What is good is he is demanding but he never puts pressure on you. He only asks that you to give your best.
"If you look at what he’s like on match days he gives everything to the team and that motivates the players to do the same. I played my best football under him because he believed in me."
Stay tuned for Part Two of our exclusive interview with Patrick Kanyuka where he will tell us about his experiences of playing football in Thailand and Myanmar.
To view Kanyuka's player profile visit: www.mnmcoaching.com/single-post/2016/10/04/CO-OP-PLAYERS-COACHS
To view his Fan Page visit: www.facebook.com/kanyuka/