Bent's Indonesia Insight
Marcus Bent on what Everton can expect in Indonesia.
Everton's announcement that this summer's pre-season schedule would include a trip to Indonesia offered a departure from the regular summer circuit.
In recent years the squad's passports will have received an increasing number of stamps with tours to USA, Canada and Australia occupying the calendar.
But this trip to south east Asia is more of a step into the unknown.
Fortunately, there is a man with strong Everton links who's well-placed to reveal more about a country with the world's fourth largest population and - more importantly - its relationship with football.
"My first impressions were that it was a good place," recalls Marcus Bent, the former Blues striker who spent six months at Indonesian top-flight side Mitra Kukar last season.
"It was humid and hot from six in the morning until eight in the evening. The stadiums looked good and they were trying to do things the right way.
"They will look after you. When a western team comes out they pull out all the stops. The hotels are awesome, especially in Jakarta.
"Jakarta is westernised; it's a little bit like Dubai or Abu Dhabi with big malls and things like that."
The Indonesian capital is a bustling metropolis which is home to over 10m people and boasts the 80,000-capacity Gelora Bung Karno stadium, where Everton will face Galatasaray and either Malaysia or Indonesia next month.
"The main stadium is huge," Bent continued. "It looks awesome from the outside and the pitch is nice as well. The facilities are not the best, with the showers you'd better tell the boys to bring some wet wipes.
"We used to train at 7am to miss the sun but it was still 25-30 degrees. Nine in the evening will be sort of the same, it will be really humid. The boys will have done it before but it's hard to run about in, it's an experience. It will get their fitness levels up, trust me.
"Football is huge," he added. "The fans have all got banners and horns, they are mad for them. You come out of the stadium with your ears ringing from the horns. They are into their fireworks; in a couple of games I played you couldn't see your hand in front of your face because of the smoke."
The appetite for football in Indonesia is huge and Everton were approached as the hosts want to test themselves against, and learn from, some top European sides.
Bent explains that while enthusiasm for football - the Premier League in particular - is unabashed, the development of Indonesia's own game is less eye-catching.
"I would say the standard of football is very much ‘developing'," he added. "The backing the game has is awesome, I just feel they don't quite know how to develop the game just yet.
"Football is massive. Premier League games aren't usually on TV until after midnight but it's huge over there. The Premier League is the most popular league, unless Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing.
"I sat down and watched an Everton game when I was over there and you don't realise when you are playing in the Premier League there is that much of a worldwide attraction. For football, Asia is huge; wherever I went I was mobbed and people were recognising me.
"Everton are a massive name over there. Man United are the biggest, you have got Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney on the billboards - but all the teams are there, even the likes of Stoke and West Ham. There are shirts everywhere - well there are fakes anyway."
After leaving Everton for Charlton in 2006 Bent played for Wigan, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, QPR, Wolves and SheffieldUnited before his Indonesian adventure.
He keeps in contact with plenty of his Goodison Park contemporaries and now, as a free agent, he's weighing up his next move.
"I have been keeping myself fit, I have been speaking to Lee Carsley at Coventry, I have a few options in the US and in Australia so I am keeping myself fit and waiting to see what happens," Bent added.
"I saw Timmy (Cahill) in Los Angeles, he was there with his wife and kids. It was nice to catch up, we had a good chat.
"I am in touch with James Beattie, James McFadden, I still talk to Dunc once in a while, Lee Carsley, Kevin Kilbane, Kevin Campbell - I am still in touch with them all.
"Whenever we see each other we always have a good chinwag."