Kieran Monlouis’ professional dream may have hit the buffers, for now at least, but he is determined to knuckle down to life at AFC Sudbury and show what he can do to get it back on track.
The midfielder, who only turns 21 in April, was playing alongside recognisable names at Charlton Athletic, then in the Championship, with their Under-23s development squad only a year ago, found himself at a crossroads in his career at the turn of the year.
Having not made the grade in spells at Crystal Palace, Stoke City and then The Addicks, he took the decision to give a bridge between — training at Colchester United with AFC’s fellow Ryman League side Maldon & Tiptree in a new link-up project — a go.
The hope was if he was able to impress he had instant access to a then third tier professional club.
But the reality was he got caught in the middle and was soon left to make another big choice when not regaining his place in the side following an injury this season.
“I got injured and I found I was having to fight for my place when I came back. At the time I made up my mind that it was not for me and come January I felt like it was time for me to move on,” the London-based player explained.
“I was at Maldon for a year-and-a-half. I was a guinea pig for the project with the link between Colchester.
“In the link between the pro and non-league you can find you get lost in-between. You either felt like you deserved to be a Colchester player or you thought you should just wait it out and try and get games in the non-league and then try and get seen through that.”
But with AFC Sudbury manager Jamie Godbold a known interested follower, Monlouis decided to jump at the chance to break ties with the thing he now believes had been holding his progression back, and go it alone in the non-league world.
“I have known Jamie for just over a year now. He had scouts watching me when I was down at Maldon & Tiptree (and) playing against AFC Sudbury home and away, and he liked what he saw,” he said.
“A lot of players my age lose motivation, but I always say to people who ask why, with respect, I have come this low, I just say I am just starting up and I want to get experience. I feel I am ready to get back to where I feel I should be.”
Asked what the main barrier to him succeeding was, he said: “I just think it is taken for granted what you have at the time. I felt I was taking for granted the luxuries of being a pro footballer.”
Monlouis made an instant impact on his introduction to the AFC Sudbury first-team, putting in a man-of-the-match display in the heart of the midfield during last Tuesday’s return to winning ways at home to Worthing (1-0).
Having played no competitive football since before Christmas prior to that — having also been on a trial at League Two outfit Barnet in-between leaving Maldon & Tiptree and signing for AFC — the 20-year-old was unable to reach the same performance levels on Saturday as The Yellows went down to a disappointing 4-0 defeat at Staines Town.
The result had left them still in 18th place and five points above the relegation zone in the Ryman League Premier Division table, ahead of dropping a place before last night’s third-time-lucky re-run of their game at Jimmy Bullard’s Leatherhead (see our website for result) following Harrow Borough’s 4-0 win at Worthing on Tuesday.
Monlouis played in one of the two defensive midfield holding roles, along with captain Sam Clarke, on his AFC debut, but hopes to show Yellows fans what he can do further up the pitch once he regains his match fitness.
“Predominantly I am a number eight; I like to get forward and also defend a bit for the team,” he said.
“If it happens I have to do a job as a four, then I am happy to do that also.”
Of the AFC dressing room, he said: “I feel (already) it is a group I can mould with and play good football with. We got the victory (last Tuesday) and I feel like it is something we can build on.
“The fans seem like they back their side all the way and I just feel I need to come in and be a part of it.
“I put my all out on the field and I just need to build on that.
“The setup is good here and they like to play the way I like to play.”
Monlouis’ introduction to the side — on a non-contract basis, at this stage — has come at a pivotal time with the news yesterday that fellow midfielder Erkan Okay, also introduced as a new signing after the start of the season, having had his knee confirmed as cruciate ligament damage, meaning he will be ruled out beyond the end of this season.
Former Lowestoft Town player and England C-capped Okay tweeted: “Going to London in a few weeks to see how bad the damage is. I am truly gutted and devastated but will fight to come back and play again.”
Okay signed for AFC from Cambridge City in early December, and despite only playing five games before picking up his injury, against former club Lowestoft on January 2, had made a telling impact in the centre of the park.