JD Cymru Premier: Louis Robles on life with Liverpool academy, Bala exit and the story so far with TNS

PICTURE by TNS FC/Brian Jones shows Robles celebrate a goal v Flint Town United last Saturday.

BY NOW, Louis Robles will be a familiar name to anyone closely following the JD Cymru Premier.

In the 2019/20 season, during a campaign which was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, he was one of the star men in Colin Caton’s side at Bala Town as they finished third in the top-flight table.

The attacker scored 11 times in 23 league outings during his one and only season for the Lakesiders (as well as a further 5 cup goals) before switching allegiances to rivals The New Saints (TNS) last summer.

Robles celebrates a goal with team-mates at Bala in 2019/20. PIC: Bala Town FC

Talking to AFE about that decision to depart Maes Tegid for Park Hall, the 24-year-old said: “It was very difficult leaving Bala in the summer – not only did we have a really successful season and accomplish what we set out to do, but it was just a great environment.
“Without question there was people in the dressing room I consider good friends of mine now, so it was always going to be difficult leaving. But, I’m really happy I did make the switch because I’m loving every minute of being a TNS player. The chance to play full time football for myself was something I couldn’t turn down.”

And it’s turned out to be a brilliant move for Robles too as he’s been in unstoppable form to the Saints this season, already matching the 11 goals he scored for Bala last season but in just 18 league outings so far.

He scored twice on his league debut for the club in a 4-0 win over Caernarfon Town and has since scored against Penybont (2), champions Connah’s Quay Nomads (1), Aberystwyth Town (1), Barry Town United (1), Newtown (1) and Flint Town United three times – with two of those coming in the 6-0 hammering TNS dished out to the Silkmen at the Essity Stadium last Saturday.

As well as that, Robles also scored on his European debut for the club – in the historic 3-1 UEFA Europa League qualifier match against Slovakian outfit MSK Zilina. He scored the opener in that match before a penalty from Patrik Myslovic forced Extra Time and a Leo Smith goal and Adrian Cieslewicz sent TNS through to face Faroe Islands club 36 Torshavn, where they were eventually beaten on pens in a thriller.

Robles on the ball in TNS 3-1 win over MSK Zilina. PIC: TNS FC/Brian Jones.

Talking about his goalscoring form this season and the journey so far with TNS during the 2020/21 campaign, Robles said: “As an attacking player scoring goals always breeds confidence, but in any way that I can contribute to help the team makes me equally as happy. I always set myself individual targets to keep myself obsessed with improving, but the most important thing is the team and that the team is successful

“My favourite games so far playing for TNS, would have to be my debut for the club against MSK Zilina in the Europa League, where I managed to score and we won the match to progress to the next round and also my very first TNS vs Connah’s Quay game at Park Hall, where I got the winner (A 1-0 victory).

“Scoring against and beating MSK Zilina is without doubt one of my career highlights. I don’t think anybody gave us a chance in that tie, so to prove people wrong in a game of that magnitude was a great feeling, and something I’ll never forget.
The preparation that went on before that game, the fitness levels of the lads and the level the team was showing in training and in pre season matches gave us all a lot of confidence, and we were quietly confident going in to the game, but it’s a different story executing the game plan, and thankfully we did it.

“I’m very thankful all the players and staff made me feel really welcome here on day one, everyone’s been great with me, so settling in was made that much easier. The hopes for the season are just to take each game as it comes and stay focused on our end goal for the season.”

Robles’ career before landing in Wales also makes for interesting reading.

Robles is now a firm favourite at TNS – but here’s a bit about how his career before he came to Wales. PIC: TNS FC/Brian Jones.

Born in Liverpool to an English mother and a Spanish father, he actually began his career in Liverpool Football Club’s academy, spending a decade there before joining Wigan Athletic when he was 16 years old.

It was with the Latics that he would enjoy one of the most memorable moments of his career to date as he went on to appear in an EFL Championship match for them back in 2015/16. He came on in the 64th minute to replace Marc-Antoine Fortune as Wigan lost 3-0 to Brentford at the now non-existent Griffin Park.

Despite the result, and the fact that Wigan were relegated to EFL League One pre-match, Robles regards it as one of the greatest moments of his career. He said: “It was one of the proudest moments of mine and my families life, it’s something I worked all my childhood to accomplish. To play in the Championship in a packed out stadium, alongside the likes of Harry Maguire and Jermaine Pennant was an unbelievable feeling.

“I was also fortunate enough to be at Liverpool for 10 seasons, therefore experienced a lot of different top coaches and philosophies, from Steve Highway to the Dutch, then later on the Spanish, so I was able to learn different styles of play and positions on the pitch which came in handy later on in my career for sure.”

Robles in action for Wigan Athletic in 2015.

Aside from his time in England, where he also played for Macclesfield Town, Gloucester City and Grimsby Town, Robles also spent time playing overseas, playing college soccer with Limestone Saints (South Carolina) – where he scored 14 goals in just 19 matches.

He also played for Majorcan outfit Atletico Baleares (and had trained with Bangor City to get his fitness up before this move due to his links to then-City manager Ian Dawes who knew him through the Liverpool Academy) and San Roque De Lepe on two separate occasions.

Asked about what he thinks the main differences are between playing in Wales’ top-flight and playing in those other leagues in Europe and America, Robles said: “I think the obvious one is the playing surface. In England, I only ever played on grass pitches, so when I arrived in the US it did take a little getting used to transitioning to the Astro turfs. In Spain and Wales it’s quiet similar in the fact that it was pretty much 50/50 for the most part with some teams having grass pitches and others astro turf.
I think the main difference between the leagues is the environmental factors. Playing in South Carolina, Mallorca and Huelva – the temperatures can reach unbearable levels, therefore the players and teams have to play smart and not run for the sake of it or exert too much energy unnecessarily. Obviously In Wales the weather isn’t an obstacle in terms of physicality so it’s a lot more intense physically in terms of the volume of running.”

22 goals in 42 JD Cymru Premier matches for Robles so far tells you all you need to know about the impact he has made on Wales’ top-flight so far. A player who is effective through the middle or out wide and can really bring team-mates into the game well too.

A joy to watch and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from him as TNS look to re-claim the title from the clutches of Connah’s Quay come the end of this season.

The Saints, currently second in the table three points behind the Nomads, face Caernarfon Town next in their final match before the league splits into two tables of six teams.

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