In the latest part of our interviews with the people involved with Gibraltar’s maiden European campaign, we caught up with former Europa & US Le Pontet goalkeeper Jamie Robba, now playing at Lynx.
Jamie Robba played a major part in Gibraltar’s Euro campaign, starting five games. The promising goalkeeper reflected on the campaign, “It was a dream come true even now I think back on it and it still doesn’t feel real. I look at the pictures and videos and I have to pinch myself cause I’m back here playing in the Victoria Stadium. No offence to the Stadium, but when you go into Nuremberg packed full of fans and then you go Victoria and play infront of about twenty people. It was an amazing experience, the players from abroad that play in my team always tell me that they would do anything for an opportunity like that. They always ask how many years they have to be playing in Gibraltar to be able to play for the GFA, it was an incredible honor and experience.
One of the many talking points from the Euros was Jamie Robba replacing Jordan Perez in the game against Ireland, we got his feelings on the decision, “Yes, of course. When Bula told me to start warming up I thought it was just out of a heated moment because he [Perez] wasn’t having the best of games and sometimes coaches do that to put pressure on the players to perform better. I honestly didn’t think I was coming on. When I was told to warm up properly and it started to get serious, I couldn’t believe what was happening, it was one of the moments where you just do it without thinking, I just couldn’t believe it. We were already losing and when I came on my heart was racing, the adrenaline was pumping and I just couldn’t believe it and then the game happened so fast, it was one of those moments where I just couldn’t think. Thankfully when I came on I played well and for me at least it was a good experience. Maybe it shouldn’t have happened the way it did but sometimes football is like that.”
Just before facing Germany in Faro, Gibraltar played a friendly against Croatia which Jordan Perez played the first half and Jamie Robba the second. Jordan played well enough in that game to get the nod to be starting against Germany. After Perez’s famous performance, which included saving Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger’s penalty, we asked Robba if he thought that was the end of his campaign. “Not really, football is full of ups and downs, the downs can come as quickly as the ups. I was gutted to be benched against Germany, Personally I didn’t feel I deserved it after how good my standards were but I always knew that I couldn’t give up so I carried on training, working harder to get better and continuing to improve. You always have to think that you will get another chance and thankfully I did in the last game.”
Jamie Robba gave us an insight into his fondest memory from the Euro campaign, “It has to be when we walked out in Nuremberg to sing the national anthems and I was beside Roy Chipolina. We were looking around the stadium and it was in the evening so the fans had the flashlight on their phones and that picture of looking in the crowd and seeing all those camera lights, it was that moment when Roy and I looked at each other and we just said ‘Wow, this is incredible’.”
At the end of last season Jamie Robba announced that he was leaving Europa. Robba’s former employers came second that season and reflected if Europa have what it takes to be dethrone Lincoln. “Yes, as the most professional club, I think that goes down to Europa. From what i’ve seen and heard, it is that Europa are doing things the most professional way possible. As a team I do feel that they [Europa] play better football and they do have what it takes to pinch Lincoln to that title or the Rock Cup. I just feel that Lincoln stand out a bit more because they have those two or three players that make that difference [Lee Casciaro, Liam Walker and Joseph Chipolina]. Personally Europa have a better team but those players just make the difference and that’s why I think Lincoln will win the title.”
Shortly after leaving Europa, news broke out that Jamie Robba will be moving to France and join US Le Pontet. After 4-5 months of playing and training, we announced that Robba will be leaving and returning home. The question on everyone’s lips was why and Jamie Robba said, “Basically I was signed by the Sporting Director, he was the one that came over to Gibraltar and saw me train and play. I felt I was very naive when I joined, I jumped at the occasion without checking things properly. When I got to France it wasn’t everything that I was promised but no regrets it was a professional club, we trained in the morning and had our own training pitch, it was a grass pitch and the stadium was an 8,000 seater. The training was at a very high intensity, we had coaches for every aspect of training and everything was really good. The problem was that I wasn’t getting any minutes and as a footballer that is the last thing you want. I played in a few preseason friendlies but I just didn’t feel wanted by the coach. When I had an honest conversation with the coach and there was a conflict in interest, I wasn’t brought in by the manager and sometimes that happens in football when you get conflicts between the Sporting Director and the Manager. Me and a few other players were suffering from the same problem and during the conversation the manager said that I would be his number two and for now I wasn’t in his plans to be first choice keeper which is normal. I guess the first choice keeper was brought in from Montpellier HSC and was very experienced at thirty-two years old. I spoke to the Manager and Sporting Director and asked for my release as I didn’t want to be two-thousand kilometres away from home and be sitting on the bench, so we mutually terminated my contract and I returned to Gibraltar.”
Jamie Robba’s time at France was his first taste in professional football, he reflected on what lessons he learnt, “The coaching side of things I learnt a lot, I was taught little techniques that unfortunately you don’t learn here in Gibraltar but there is not that type of knowledge here. The intensity there was professional and always at a very higher standard, even though the standards in Gibraltar are rising but it didn’t match the training in France. I guess the reason for it, was there was a hunger from every player to improve each day. There were a total of five keepers at training, first choice then me and three below me and each day they would give 100% in training which pushed me to improve. In every position there was that competitiveness , which was immense compared to Gibraltar and that’s why we suffer. I also learnt that in a professional game, that in each day you have to be 100%, you can’t afford to fall-back and you have to continue to try your hardest.
When Jamie returned to Gibraltar he started training with Lincoln Red Imps, we asked if there was ever talk of a contract being offered, “When I started training with Lincoln I made my intentions clear that it would be solely training. No disrespect to Lincoln that I wouldn’t sign for them but my ambitions are to go abroad again. I want to experience it again, I want a career outside of Gibraltar, not because I think I am better than the level here because there are very good players here but I want to experience a career abroad and play in different pitches, learning different footballing cultures and going abroad is the best way to do that. So from day one my intentions were to play abroad and Lincoln knew that also. Even if it means going to Spain, France again, England or anywhere.
Last Monday Jamie joined Lynx on an emergency loan, we asked if Robba took much persuading to play in Gibraltar again, “As we all know that Lynx goalkeeper suffered a bad injury and my uncle Albert is the Lynx president and also the manager. He rang me up and asked if I could do him the favour of playing for them as I wouldn’t be able to play with any other club until January. He asked me if I could do him the favour and at the same time he is doing me a favour. Getting games is the best thing, no matter how many times you train, if you aren’t getting minutes then you can only improve so much. It didn’t take much persuading, the moment he told me the situation and I agreed straight away on the condition that if an offer comes then I can move at any time and he understands as it’s something that he would want aswell.”
Lastly, Jamie Robba gave us some words for those young goalkeeper who want to become a footballer one day, “My advice for any young player, not just keepers, who want to make a career out of football is to play abroad because you can only experience so much and learn so much when playing in one stadium and against the same opponents over and over again. If you look at the U17 league, there is hardly any teams and they play I think about once a month, you can’t improve as a footballer like that. My advice is always go abroad, you can only learn by playing against different people week in-week out and being in that competitive atmosphere. Go abroad, learn as much as you can and that is my advice.”