Arvin Appiah on return to training in Spain and working with Real Madrid legend Guti

Arvin Appiah wants “smiles instead of doubt”.

Even during the most harrowing of times, his positive outlook pierces the computer screen. The England U19 international is building a career at the same time as building a life out in Spain with Almeria.

The resumption of the Segunda Division means more to him than most. It could be a trip to the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu next season, a chance to grace the same turf of his idol, the former Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben.

Almeria were third at the suspension of the Spanish leagues, five points off an automatic promotion place. If they don’t make it into the top two then a play-off position will be most likely.

“I try to stay positive so I hope that the league isn’t cancelled. I know that this season is going to go back to normal and we’ll complete the games,” Appiah says.

“We’ve just got to take each game step by step and take it as a final. Every team from first to seventh wants to get into the top two and playoff positions so we have to take each game as a final and be ready to fight.”

The new ‘normal’ for the 19-year-old is returning to training on his own, initially for just 15 minutes at Almeria’s training ground under strict social distancing rules.

Spain is a country hurting from the coronavirus pandemic – while completing his daily exercise, Appiah has been met on street corners by police on patrol.

But even during the lockdown period the locals’ love for their football club shines through.

“It’s a very passionate country. I went for a run yesterday and I do get a few fans saying ‘Appiah, come on let’s go’,” he explains.

“They all support and it gives me the motivation to go that extra mile. I can’t wait to get started.”

It was also the supporters who helped the winger settle in after his club-record signing from Nottingham Forest last summer.

“At first I wasn’t playing and I was getting used to the lifestyle, the culture and stuff but…when I started to play they were very welcoming, they really noticed what I brought to the team,” he says.

A year ago, Appiah had just started to break into the Forest first team under Martin O’Neill and was involved in Sabri Lamouchi’s plans at the start of the season.

Emboldened by a Saudi backed takeover, Appiah signed for Almeria on deadline day in September with the club spending heavily in a bid to reach La Liga – it’s a project Appiah is excited to be a part of.

“I felt like I needed to play first-team games, get a different experience at a young age because I know it’s better to deal with it when you’re younger than at an older age…I feel like God put this in my stage in life, he wouldn’t put me in here for no reason so I’m here and I’m blessed that I’m here,” he says.

“I don’t feel like I have to prove a point but I know that I’m going to do well here. It might take time but I know that I’m going to get to the top one day and hopefully play top level football.”

Appiah’s Spanish is coming along and his first year abroad has been a learning curve. He’s been in and out of the side, but is finding his feet by learning from the best.

“At first I was like ‘Guti? unreal’ yeah I was shocked,” he says.

Guti, the former midfielder, came through the ranks at Real Madrid spending 15 years in the first team playing alongside a seemingly never ending list of Galacticos.

The 43-year-old was appointed manager of Almeria in November.

“Championship football is a lot more physical than Spain, you know the demand of games in the Championship is a lot.” Appiah says.

“I feel in Spain it’s a lot more tactical, technical. The way we play with Guti, he came from Real Madrid, he’s obviously a technical player and he wants us to play out from the back, pass move…I’ve learnt so many things from him.”

Guti also has experience playing alongside Appiah’s idol.

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