IT wasn’t that long ago that Jay Hart’s idea of a football journey was swapping one East Lancashire non league club for another.

The 29-year-old’s travels had previously taken him no further than Colne to Padiham and Ramsbottom to Nelson – although he did venture as far afield as Northwich Victoria for one season.

But one year on, the former Blackburn Rovers trainee is now plying his trade in Australia via stints in India and the kingdom of Bhutan.

The Oswaldtwistle-born striker has signed for Doncaster Rovers, a state league two side, but just like the rest of the sporting world, his career Down Under is on hold due to the coronavirus.

“The league was supposed to start last week but has been suspended, it’s such a tough time at the minute, not only for us but for the majority of the world,” Hart told the Lancashire Telegraph.

“COVID-19 has brought everything to a halt, no football, no training, nothing. It’s a scary time for the world and I hope everyone is staying safe and following rules to try put a stop to this virus.”

He added: “The standard is quite a lot lower standard to what I’m used to but I absolutely love it here, I love the club and everyone involved there.”

Hart, whose last English club was Longridge Town, swapped the Trough of Bowland for the foothills of the Himalayas when he got the unexpected chance at Thimpu City in Bhutan where his friend Josh Shepherd, born in Walsall but brought up in Accrington, was the head coach.

It was as eye opening as it was memorable but Hart, as he has done at most clubs he has played for, plundered the goals.

“Playing for Thimphu City is something I will always cherish,” added Hart who helped Longridge win the NWCL Division One title before heading for pastures new. “It was my first full time role in football and changed my life for the better.

“The way of life was very different but I feel like I adapted well to it. High up in the mountain regions, it was just such a peaceful place.

“It is something that I very much needed after a tough few years.

“The locals there were amazing too, I became good friends with more or less everyone I crossed paths with.”

Hart played 11 times for Bhutan in the Bank of Bhutan National League – missing a handful of games due to visa restrictions – but scored 20 goals earning him the nickname The English Bull.

Friends and family could tune in from home to watch him score the goals that saw Bhutan City eventually finish in third place in the league.

Also tuning in were representatives of Punjab FC, an Indian professional team that play in the I League.

It was a step up but too good an opportunity to turn down for Hart, who also played for Clitheroe.

“Punjab had seen the videos of our games and shown their interest, to go and play at that level was a no brainer really,” said Hart. “You should always aspire to play as high as possible and it was easily the highest level I’ve played at.”

While it didn’t quite work – Hart believing he wasn’t given a real chance – he says he has no regrets and his stint in the I League improved him as a player.

“As it was such a high level I kind of struggled to adapt to it and I wasn’t really given much game time to show what I could do,” he said. “Getting a few minutes here and there isn’t easy.

“I just wanted to play all the time but who doesn’t? Training twice a day too I feel my game has really improved.

“But no regrets at all, I tried and it didn’t work out, that’s life unfortunately.”

Hart, who began his career at the now defunct Rossendale United, returned home with many believing his tour of duty of East Lancs clubs would continue.

But a couple of weeks later, his bags were packed again and he was heading for Melbourne – although he admits the stint at home did wonders.

“I was home for around two weeks, it was the best two weeks of my life to be honest,” he added. “Seeing the people that mean the most to me was exactly what I needed.”

During that time he turned out for Rimington in the East Lancs League, whose excellent season was declared null and void by the Football Association this week.

But the importance of that spell wasn't lost on Hart, who said: "It kept me fit and I was welcomed in by all the lads.

"They have great facilities and a class pitch for the level they play at and it was nice to be involved with them for a little bit.

"I made some good friends, including manager Warren Jackson, who is a great guy.

"They were on for a treble this season, but now the season is void and I really feel for them. They will be a strong outfit when they play again for sure."

Hart is looking no further than his spell in Australia and helping his new team but he says he does not rule out a return to one of his many East Lancashire clubs.

“I have another new footballing family and we have some quality English players that have played at some good clubs back home,” he said.

“We should do well this season if it eventually kicks off.

“Right now I have no future plans, I am here for a year so let’s see what happens after that. I’m open to anything!

“But if I ever come back home then I will certainly be lining up for one of my former teams to see out my playing days – who will it be, I’m not sure yet but let’s see what happens!”