Donacien’s been from Accrington to Ipswich and back again... but he hopes for a future at Town after a roller coaster year
- Credit: Archant
Janoi Donacien joined Ipswich Town last summer but is now back on loan at Accrington. ANDY WARREN spoke to the defender about a tough year on and off the field.
It’s been a whirlwind season for Janoi Donacien.
That whirlwind has blown him back to where this chapter of his life began in the summer of 2018, but an awful lot has happened in between.
The defender entered last summer as a League Two champion with Accrington Stanley but made the jump to the Championship when former Ipswich boss Paul Hurst brought him to Portman Road in July.
He initially arrived on loan, while work permit issues were resolved, and quickly showed signs that he could more than hold his own as a Championship right-back.
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But he was in and out of the team, with little public explanation, while the St Lucia-born defender’s application for permanent leave to remain in the UK dragged on.
Then, having not played a minute of football under new boss Paul Lambert, he received the clearance he and his family had been waiting for, triggering a £750,000 permanent move and a contract until 2021.
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But just two weeks later he was loaned back to Accrington, where he is now helping Stanley as they battle to secure League One status for next season.
“You know what, the year I’ve had pretty much sums football up,” Donacien reflected.
“That’s how it goes sometimes. It’s a roller coaster.
“It’s been mentally tough but I’m just happy to be playing again.
“I’m not one to sit there and moan about things that aren’t going my way, the most important thing for me is just playing football. That’s what I love to do.
“It’s good to be back here and I’ve just dropped back into the role I played for Accrington last year,” he continued.
“I just wanted to go out and play because nobody wants to be sat around, not playing games.
“Paul Lambert told me that straightaway, that he wouldn’t stall my career, and that he wanted me to just get out there and play games.
“He was clear with me that he wanted me to play because I wasn’t involved at Ipswich.
“When the chance to come back to Accrington came I took it because I had some really good memories there and had two happy years there so I said ‘why not?’.”
The move from Accrington to Ipswich and then back again, albeit temporarily, has been a big one for 25-year-old Donacien.
But the biggest change for the defender came at the start of this year when his application for a biometric residence permit was finally approved.
It had been a long time coming but, finally, Donacien had the right to permanently live in a country that has been his home since 2001.
“It was supposed to be sorted so quickly. I don’t know what to say about it,” he said with a chuckle.
“It just came in the end and I’m so happy it did because it meant I could sign on a permanent deal at Ipswich.
“It’s not just me, it’s me and my family. It helps everything with us. My mum and brothers, we can all move on as a family now.
“It was me, my mum and two brothers applying for it and it was a really happy moment when it came. I was the last one to receive it but it was a relief for us all.”
So what next?
Donacien’s future is sorted off the field in terms of his personal life and, if he can have his way on it, he’ll be back at Portman Road this summer to stake a claim for a spot in the Ipswich Town first-team once again.
“I truly hope that’s what the case will be but, right now, I haven’t spoken to the gaffer,” Donacien said.
“The club have more pressing things going on at the moment, like staying in the league – which I hope they do.
“I hope to have a conversation with the gaffer soon and see what his plans are for me.
“I want to be playing at Ipswich. The club have signed me and I want to be playing there.
“I just want to play. If the gaffer wants me to play centre-back then I’ll do that. If he wants me at right-back then I’ll be there.
“I want to be back with the boys playing games for Ipswich.
“The team is a really good team with a good group of boys. Hopefully they can finish the season really strongly and then go into next year with some momentum.”
Donacien moved to Suffolk to fulfil his ambition of playing in the Championship.
He did that 10 times for Ipswich but, with the Blues looking certain to be playing third-tier football next season, the defender is well aware of the challenge his parent club will face.
It’s a challenge he’s excited for.
“It’s a difficult challenge because Ipswich will be ‘the big club’,” he said.
“They are a big club in the Championship but we would be a massive one in League One. When you are that club everyone wants to beat you and every game is a cup final for the opposition.
“The big thing will be overcoming that tag and beating teams who see you as the big scalp. Everyone will want to beat Ipswich Town.
“Sunderland are that team now. We played there and drew 1-1 and it’s even bigger when you play away at their stadium.
“You have to rise up against that and your quality has to come through, really and truly.”