Román Golobart

An FA Cup medal winner with Wigan Athletic in 2013, the cerebral Catalan played at Inverness and for FC Koln before returning to Spain. He told Andy Mitten about his experiences.


“I grew up close to Espanyol’s old stadium in Sarria so it was natural that I supported the club, more so as my father had played for them. He retired at 29 and became a dentist. He later ran for club president and also writes opinion columns in newspapers.

Life’s tough when you support Espanyol. You have to compete with the business conglomerate that is FC Barcelona: just three kids in my class of 25 supported Espanyol, despite us being near their stadium. Espanyol had a slightly right wing and wealthy following which probably kept it alive.

I watched many games and sometimes I cried with happiness, like when we won the Copa del Rey twice, but to me it was more about belonging to a following. As I played football, I also hoped to play there.

Espanyol spotted me at 12 on a summer camp and sent a letter inviting me for trials. For me it was confirmation. It’s how I thought it should be.

I did well and played in the youth teams alongside my partner Jordi Amat who is now at Swansea. We had a good side and beat Barça a lot. They had Sergi Roberto and Marc Muniesa, now at Stoke.

I wanted to be a footballer but didn’t realise how hard it would be. I was in a bubble. I played in a team which played the best youth sides in the world from Madrid, Milan and Manchester. Sometimes we won and that makes your think you are one of them.

At 15, I went on loan to Europa, a classic old club in Barcelona. They wanted me to play in their under 17s team. I trained with them and their under 19s coach invited me to join his side. Playing against much older players was a good experience. I was receiving €250 per month to be a footballer. I also turned down an offer to play with Damm, the third best youth team in Catalonia. They’re a foundation with no adult team and they do a very good job. They offered me €800 a month but I was happy at Europa and was selected to play for Spain’s under 17s with Koke and Isco.

Angoy, the former Barcelona goalkeeper, watched me. He told Jordi Cruyff about me. He told his friend Roberto Martinez.

I felt that Espanyol, to which I was still contracted to, had limited interest in me. My father was pursuing the club presidency which didn’t make things easier. I heard comments like ‘Your father is doing that so you can become a player’.

I had to run away. It wasn’t sport any more, but politics. Martinez called me from Swansea and I went there. After five days training he said: ‘I want you to stay with me’.

I was happy to move to Swansea but there was no follow up call. By the end of June I was running out of contract and worrying. On 24th July Martinez called. He’d been made Wigan manager and wanted me there. The delay had been because he knew he was leaving Swansea for a Premier League club.

Wigan were top-level but it felt like a family club. The players were Premier League in their demeanour. Sportsmen are confident in the way they talk and move. We’re proud, we push our bodies to the limit. Money and big houses give footballers confidence and I saw that at Wigan.

Martinez said he had big hopes for me, but it was tough at first. I didn’t speak English, I was 17 and had to adapt to life in the north of England after a life in Barcelona. Martinez knew what it took, he’d done the same.

I played with the reserves at Wigan, which was fine. I learned English and grew to love British culture. My English before my move had come from listening to Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. In England I watched loads of films, including classics like Kes. I was obsessed with Oasis and The Verve, who were from Wigan.

English football is completely different to Spanish. In England, it’s normal for one or two players to want the ball when you have it. In Spain it’s six or seven. I started to adapt, though I picked up a patellar tendon injury, fro growing, which I couldn’t get rid of.

Wigan were fighting relegation, so a reserve player with an injury was no big deal for them. I thought Roberto, a fellow Catalan, would help me more but he had his own problems to deal with. Unable to play, I started to get very down. I cried a lot, I was in pain. I thought that being humble and working hard would be enough. It wasn’t and now I couldn’t even play. I was earning £250 a week and spending all that on normal life.

Eventually, I found a good physio in Barcelona. He’d worked with Figo, Guardiola, Puyol. He identified my problem and began to fix it. I was close to the end of my contract and asked Martinez if I could go to Barcelona for a month with the physio. He said that if I went for a month then the club couldn’t pay my treatment. My health was more important, I wanted to get better, so I stood up and left Wigan. Martinez backtracked a little and said:

‘Listen, go there, take it easy and come back.’ I wasn’t important enough to Wigan.

I spent all my money and a lot of my father’s money – about €10,000 in total – to get back from my injury. It took three months. I went back to Wigan, trained well and won a new contract worth £500 a week. People in Spain thought I was a millionaire.

We had a very good reserve team and finished third behind both Manchester clubs. I was 18, living in Wigan Pier and discovering the nearby cities of Manchester and Liverpool. I had a twitter account and would regularly seek advice on music and culture. I felt British; I felt that I was in the right place.

In 2011, Terry Butcher got in touch with me to go on loan at Inverness in the SPL. My father liked that idea, he said Butcher was a legend. I’d only seen him get skinned by Maradona and the famous images of his bloodied face. I did pre-season with Wigan and felt a pain in my knee one day. My body was still growing and not everything was lining up. I asked the physio for an anti-inflammatory and he said he wasn’t allowed to give me one. I saw where they were in the physio room and went to take one. While I was there, I saw the head physio come into the room. I hid. He didn’t see me. I took the anti-inflammatory and played on.

Butcher called again. Dad suggested that I go to Scotland, pass the test there and be ready for the English Premier League. I went to Inverness.

It was strange at first, going to a country with only five million people. Inverness was two hours form other cities, it’s isolated, but I met some great people. Locals liked football, there were pubs with live music. I bought a guitar and learned to play it. I joined in with the live music in the pubs and played a triangle! I loved it. I liked the Scottish mentality: life is tough so they try and enjoy it.

I didn’t train well or adapt well to Scottish football, though. Butcher shouted at me in training one day. It was a monologue two inches from my face. He called me a ‘peanut’. Even when he was most angry, he had the British reserve not to say something stronger. I wanted to fight him but I wanted to be professional, to learn from him. He said I was going back to Wigan.

A day later, I went to see him and told him I could not go back as a failure. He’d calmed and told me about pace and pressing. I started to adapt to British way. By end of December Inverness asked me to stay for six months more. I won the young player of the year award. I was on £1,100 a week.


Wigan wanted me back for the 2012-13 season. I made my first team debut in the FA Cup, which wasn’t taken seriously at the start. We knocked Bournemouth out, then Macclesfield and Huddersfield. I played every game. The fans were always into the competition, the club started to be when we reached the sixth round against Everton at Goodison. I was dropped for that one, but came on at the end with Wigan leading 3-0.

I made my Premier League debut against Stoke City, that most British of teams. I marked Peter Crouch. Even though I’m big, I felt like a boy against his dad. I did well and thought ‘I can do this for a living’. My confidence surged…then crashed when I was dropped for the next league match. I was offered a new contract on £1,400 a week, later increased to £2,300.

Money was secondary; I wanted to play first team football. I got my FA Cup winners’ medal for the five games I played on the way to Wembley, but that summer Wigan went down. I thought the Championship would be perfect for me, but didn’t know who the manager would be as Martinez was going to Everton.

Doncaster and Crystal Palace were interested, but FC Koln approached me from Germany. They were a second division team with serious ambitions to win promotion into the Bundesliga and they offered a contract worth €20,000 a month. I moved to Germany, played in front of 50,000 for home games and initially enjoyed it. We took 10,000 fans to a game at Bochum. It’s a wonderful atmosphere in which to play football. I told one journalist that life in Koln was like getting to know a new girlfriend. I learned German, but I was demoted to the reserves.


I said to a journalist that it was like having a new girlfriend that I wasn’t allowed to sleep with. The best-selling tabloid BILD ran those quotes as a headline. The club requested that I didn’t make sexual references in future.

I was loaned out to a second division team mid-season, then I moved back to Spain in 2015 with Racing Ferrol in the third division. I lived in La Coruna, a fantastic city with great seafood. I played every week, but the club didn’t invest enough and I moved to third division Real Murcia in the close season. Murcia is a big club which plays in a modern 32,000 seater stadium. Average crowds are 6,000 and we’re aiming for promotion this season. We play Recreativo Huelva this weekend.

I’m working hard, I’m still only 24 and want to get back to the top in England or Spain in this crazy football industry that I have chosen to be part of.”