Louis Robles is back in his father’s homeland of Spain after starting the season with Grimsby Town. His return to English football may have been short lived but he is now determined to put that frustration behind him and pick up where he left off in Spain.
“I was extremely frustrated I didn’t get much of a chance to play at Grimsby,” says the 22-year-old. “I had left a great situation I had in Spain to come to Grimsby and I was itching to play, however I would always respect the manager and his coaching staff’s decisions.
“But because of the lack of playing time I knew I had to look elsewhere as soon as possible.”
Go back to June 2018 when the former Wigan Athletic man had agreed his return to English football and the mood was very different. Having spent a year and a half playing in Spain, the forward was delighted to be able to return home when a manager he had faced during his youth football days came calling.
“The manager of Grimsby Town, Michael Jolley, knew me from when he was the coach of Burnley’s under-23 side and got in contact with me and after a few phone calls, I was extremely excited about the possibility of playing back in the English league in front of such a huge fan base that the club has.
“Having being away from the UK for a couple of years as well I was excited to come home and I felt, and still feel now, that I have unfinished business to accomplish England.”
Signing a one-year deal with the League Two club, Robles was keen to add to the handful of senior appearances he had previously made in England earlier in his career but he found his playing time limited. He managed just five appearances in all competitions and having been an unused substitute on nine occasions in the league, he decided to seek release from his contract at the end of December. His unfinished business in England will have to wait for now.
It would not take long for him to find regular football however, as on the same day as his release, he secured a return to his former side, San Roque de Lepe who play in the fourth-tier of Spanish football. He’d be there before but how did he get there?
Robles began his football career with his local club Liverpool where he spent eight years learning the game at his favourite team. After his spell with the Reds came to an end, he continued his youth development with Wigan Athletic eventually making his first team debut at the end of the 2014/15 season in a 3-0 loss to Brentford.
The following season he spent time on loan at Macclesfield Town and later with National League North side Gloucester City but at the end of the season, he was released by the Latics. Instead of attempting to find another club though, he had another plan in mind.
“I was very Intrigued by the American soccer college system,” he says. “For several years when I was at Liverpool and Wigan, coaches would often come in and sell their respective colleges and I would always leave those meetings with a bit of excitement wanting to one day give it a go.
“The timing of it was also a big factor, as at this stage I believe it was the last year for me to be eligible to go ahead and commit to it so I decided to give it a go.”
So in 2016, Robles headed off to the States to study and play college soccer at Limestone College in South Carolina. He made a big impact in the college game, scoring 14 times and assisting a further five in 19 appearances. His impressive spell saw him named as the Freshman of the Year in his conference.
After a year in the States, something Robles describes as a “great experience, something I definitely do not regret”, he was back in the UK to sign for Welsh Premier League side Bangor City. However after just one cup match in which he scored twice, he was on the move again, this time with his sights set on his father’s homeland.
“Playing in Spain has always been my dream. My father is my biggest fan and with him being Spanish, from a very young age I always knew one day I’d play in Spain.
“Luckily, a very good friend of mine, who I had met in America, had contacts who said they would be able to get me a club In Spain.”
The forward’s first opportunity in Spanish football would come on deadline day in January 2017 with third-tier side Atlético Baleares, a side based in Mallorca. Incidentally, the same side have since had two more English players feature for them, Sam Shashoua and Ody Alfa, who are on loan from Tottenham Hotspur and QPR respectively.
The former Wigan man would have no problem settling in the country due to his upbringing and he was pleasantly surprised at the standard of the Spanish third-tier, known as the Segunda B.
“Already speaking the language was important and settling in to the country was easy especially with it being located in such a lovely place like Mallorca. I was already accustomed to the culture and food as I have been brought up in a Spanish household.
“I was very impressed with the standard in Segunda B, we shared the same league as the likes of Barcelona B, Valencia B, Villarreal B and Hercules just to name a few, so the league was stacked with huge clubs and top players.
“We managed to reach the playoff semi-finals that year, losing in extra time to Albacete, who are now chasing promotion to La Liga, therefore it was a very successful season for the club.”
He made five appearances in his debut campaign in Spain and after a solid to his career on the continent, he joined fourth-tier side San Roque de Lepe at the start of last season, who had previously had an Englishman on their books when Tosan Popo had a spell there in 2012.
Robles became a regular at the Andalusian side, making 33 appearances and scoring six times as he had the most successful season of his senior career so far.
“I immediately fitted in at San Roque,” he says. “The people were very welcoming to me. We had a great diverse mixture of nationalities in the dressing room and I had a really positive pre-season there, which I guess, set the tone for me personally for the rest of the season.”
Then came the aforementioned move to Grimsby Town but he is now back with San Roque and has made six appearances since returning last month.
“I’m grateful that San Roque and the fans have been so welcoming since my return,” he says. “My ambition for the rest of the season is to help this team achieve the highest position possible in the league table.”
Right now his side sit in 15th place in the 22 team division, which is just outside the relegation playoff spots but with their star man from last season back at the club, they will fancy their chances of moving up the table now.
It’s easy to forget that Robles is still only 22, having made his senior debut four years ago now. Since then he’s played in America, Wales, Spain and in League Two. Having Spanish influence in his upbringing my have made the move abroad easier for the young forward but he has still done well to take advantage of the opportunity and don’t forget, he still has that unfinished business in England to attend to in the future too.