Shropshire Star

Jan Budtz's unique career after non traditional journey

Jan Budtz’s footballing journey was not exactly a traditional one.

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He didn’t play a professional game until he was 26 years old – during which he saved two penalties – spent only four years at a full-time level of the game and has since made hundreds of appearances at various steps of non-league.

Before he started, he was a part of the Royal Danish Air Force which included parachuting out of planes, and worked as a social worker in a residential home. And, since finishing in senior football, he has spent many years helping young people develop both in football and life in general across South Yorkshire and Liverpool.

It’s a quite a story for the goalkeeping Great Dane who spent three months on loan with Wolves in the first season under Mick McCarthy back in the first months of 2007.

Oh yes. And, as England and Denmark prepare to lock horns in the European Championships in Frankfurt late this afternoon, the last time they did so, in the semi-finals back in 2021, Budtz was there. At Wembley.

“I didn’t have a ticket originally, but because of the Covid restrictions, all the Danish residents in the UK were given the chance to buy a couple,” he recalls. “I was in the Danish section with my eldest son Drew – he was supporting England with me Denmark – and, in what was a tight game, it was England who got the win.

Jan Budtz

“And now? Denmark have England in the group, and as a Danish guy living over here, I have to go through all of that again.

“I know that if England win, I’m not going to hear the last of it for weeks!”

Some friendly if lively banter around this evening’s game is all in a day’s work for the now 45-year-old, whose life experiences leave him pretty much ready for anything.

Budtz is one of those affable and articulate personalities who both loved his time in football, but has perspective from a humble grounding and additional experiences which continue to shape his attitude and approach.

“Football has always been such a privilege and I absolutely love it,” he explains. “But it’s also been nice to do something else, and while I don’t call it the ‘real world’ because I think that sounds offensive, working a nine to five and night shifts has definitely given me a sense of perspective away from football.

“I still love talking about when I played professionally, and it was a privilege to be involved, but I have found it just as rewarding to be able to give back during other parts of my life.”

Life for Budtz began in the Danish town of Hillerod, just under 20 miles north west of Copenhagen, and, growing up, a football was never too far away.

Jan (left) working in the community

With twin brother Ole and a friend, whether in the garden, on the street, even in their house, it was about playing football. And Budtz was the one of the trio who was gently nudged towards playing in goal.

But then – and this is where Budtz’s footballing pathway took a very different turn – he didn’t kick a ball in anger between the ages of 15 and 20.

He completed his education at high school and, at 18, as with all young Danes, came the obligation to pursue a form of national service.