It’s been six years since Charlie I’Anson left Grimsby Town for Spain’s Elche in a move which captured public attention in England. In that time he has played for some of the grandest clubs in the country and he is still only 24.
He was no stranger to his new surroundings though, having moved to Malaga with his family at the age of 7, learning the game at local club Atlético Benamiel, where he was teammates with future Real Madrid superstar Isco. He then returned to England at the age of 15 to join the Mariners after turning down an offer from Nottingham Forest.
After a couple of seasons in Grimsby’s first team, the defender moved back to Spain and in 2013, he made his La Liga debut for Elche playing the entire match in a 2-1 win over Espanyol. Since then, he has played in the Spanish second and third tiers with clubs such as Real Oviedo and Grenada and currently plays for Real Murcia who are looking for promotion back to the Segunda Division for the first time since the 2013/14 season.
In an exclusive Q&A with English Players Abroad, Charlie (as he is known in Spain) talks about the difference between football in England and Spain and playing for Valencia B during Gary Neville’s doomed tenure as manager of the first team.
English Players Abroad: It’s been six years since you first left Grimsby for Elche now, did you ever expect to be playing football in Spain for so long when you first made the move?
Charlie I’Anson: I knew I was going to play here for long but didn’t expect to play in the leagues I have played in so I’m very happy.
EPA: You’ve played for several big clubs since moving to Spain, across the top three divisions but you’re still only 24, do you still hope to play in La Liga again some time in the future?
CI: I wish I could get back in to La Liga but if I don’t, it will never be failure for me. I am very happy and I’m never going to stop working to keep climbing.
EPA: What do you think is the biggest difference between playing football in England and Spain? Is it just the cliched possession based football compared to long ball or is there more?
CI: Physically, there is a difference. There’s a lot more training in England focusing on strength. Here it is shorter and a bit sharper and more tactical.
EPA: You played nearly 50 games for Valencia’s B team and you were at the club whilst Gary Neville was involved with the first team. Did you ever get to train with the first team and did you meet Gary?
CI: When Gary come over it was a hard time. It was a shame it wasn’t a better time so that I could have talked to him a lot more. I trained a few times [with the first team] but not much.
EPA: Fans seem to be against B teams in England but what’s your opinion of them in Spain? Do you prefer playing for clubs like Real Oviedo and Real Murcia over a club’s B team?
CI: Here it needs to change. They need to do away with B teams and make a league of only B teams. It takes opportunities away from big clubs who are in Segunda B (third tier).
EPA: What are your ambitions for the future? Do you want to return to play football in England again some time or are there any other countries you’d like to play in?
CI: I just train and work hard and wait to see what options come through. Nothing has come from England, if it did, I would definitely think about it.
EPA: Presumably you found it easier than most to settle in Spain due to having lived there before but would you still recommend playing abroad to other English youngsters?
CI: They didn’t like my height in England but Spain is a great opportunity for English players to come abroad to try and play in the highest levels. There’s good weather and good football.
EPA: Finally, who is the best player you have ever played with or against in your career so far?
CI: There is a few but my La Liga debut stands out. I played against Sergio Garcia of Espanyol.
You can follow Charlie on Twitter and Instagram @charlie_ianson