An empty flat in rural Somerset. No family or friends nearby and only football to occupy his mornings.
Ruben Palazuelos has an almighty challenge just filling in his time since joining Yeovil Town. However, the former Hearts midfielder is embracing the challenge of playing in England’s Championship.
This is the tenth club and sixth country of his career and one he hopes could become more than just a stopover. Now 30, he signed a short-term contract until the end of the season with Yeovil, bottom of the league and fighting relegation. Thereafter, he may need to move again. For now, he is alone in the tranquil surroundings of a town with a population of 40,000 and a team whose last home gate was under 5000.
The player’s wife and two daughters are still in their native Spain. Yeovil may be a bit of a culture shock for Senora Palazuelos when she arrives next month, but she and her husband have become accustomed to footballing outposts in recent years. Since leaving Edinburgh in 2011, they have lived in Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Tapiola in Finland. Yeovil actually represents a relative return to the big time.
“I wanted to play in the Championship in England. It’s a high level, one of the best football leagues,” said Palazuelos, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “There are very good teams like Leicester City, Bolton and many others. There are great stadiums with a brilliant atmosphere and that’s the attraction.
“Yeovil is a nice town but very small. The closest city is Bristol, which is about one hour from here. For me, this is not important. What matters to me is coming here, feeling good, feeling comfortable in the team and getting a chance to play in the English Championship. It doesn’t matter if you live in a small town or a big city.”
The opportunity is clear but so far Palazuelos has not made an appearance in Yeovil’s green and white hoops. International clearance from the Finnish FA to complete his signing arrived only nine days ago. Since then, he has been an unused substitute in a 0-0 draw with Watford and a 1-0 win over Doncaster, both at Yeovil’s Huish Park.
“It’s not easy. We won our last game against Doncaster and now we are close to moving out of the relegation places. But there are 15 more games until the season finishes. We have some confidence now and I hope to play soon.
“The manager said he is happy with me and he likes my football. The clearance for my transfer only came last week so I need a little bit of time to settle into the team. I’m fit and I can play soon but my last game was in November in Finland. I went back to Spain and continued to train but it’s not easy coming into English football, which is so fast. Football in England is very similar to Scotland because it’s so fast. Sometimes it’s just attack and defence, running and long balls. I know this football because I played in Scotland but that was three years ago, so I have to adapt to this different style again. Sometimes you have to run too much but you also play against some good teams who play the ball on the floor. I hope I have my chance soon to show some good football here.”
Gary Johnson, Yeovil’s manager, recently had another former Hearts player on trial in Andy Driver. “I didn’t know Gary before but he remembered my time at Hearts and he watched some games when I was in other countries,” said Palazuelos. “He decided to sign me because I’m a different midfielder to the ones Yeovil have. The other guys can play football and they are good players, but maybe they are more runners than me. Gary Johnson likes my football because I can take the ball and I’m comfortable with the ball.”
He continues to impress each morning in training, hoping Johnson may pitch him in against Reading at the Madejski Stadium this weekend. Afternoons bring a more mundane existence as Palazuelos returns to his rented flat by himself. He views it as a necessary sacrifice for the chance to make an impact in English football.
“My family is coming soon so it will be much better for me here. In football, it doesn’t matter where you are because every day you so the same things. You go to training in the morning, maybe go for coffee, and then you spend most of the day with your family. When I am back in Spain for holidays it is different because I have my family, my friends and many things to do.
“My oldest daughter is four years old now and she is in school in Spain. My wife and my other daughter, who is 13 months, are coming here in three or four weeks’ time. They will stay here until the season finishes in May and then we will go back to Spain. My family has always been with me, even in Bulgaria and Finland. Now it is not so easy because my oldest child has started school, so they will come and stay with me at times and go back to Spain sometimes.
“This is life in football and me and my family know this. We have no problem with it. Of course it’s hard because just now I come back to my apartment and my family is not here, but it’s no problem. I have to concentrate on football.”
Does he feel staying with Yeovil beyond the summer is likely? “You never know what will happen after one or two months, whether I will stay here or have to change clubs again. Already I have played in six different countries because football is like this now. I hope Yeovil will stay in the Championship and I can play many games and do well. Then, why not stay here?
“For now, my target is to start to play in the team and play well. I don’t have a problem to go to another country if it’s good for me and my family, but I’m not thinking like this at the moment. I’m only thinking about Yeovil and afterwards we will see what happens. Maybe I will have to move again but for now I’m only thinking about playing with Yeovil.”