Hull City's Jason Lokilo on why he could not say no to the chance of coming back to England
Lokilo does not turn 25 until next month but he is not short of experience when it comes to different footballing cultures, and he is adamant England is the one for him.
Born in Brussels, he was in Anderlechet's youth team before Crystal Palace signed him as a 16-year-old.
Although he only made one senior appearance for the Eagles – against Ipswich Town in the 2017-18 League Cup – they loaned him to French club Lorient, then Doncaster Rovers, who signed him permanently on a one-year deal in 2020.
But after failing to agree another, he has spent the last two years wandering again – to Gornik Leczna, Sparta Rotterdam, then in January a loan at Istanbulspor, which no doubt caught the eye of Hull's Turkish owner Acun Ilicali.
Released by Sparta in the summer, Lokilo had other options but he says the lure of another does of English football was irresistible.
"Everyone dreams to play in England," claims Lokilo. "To be a football player in England is something special, different to all other countries. This is why I took the challenge.
"I know the demands of this league, physically it's a very tough league with games nearly every three days so you need to recover well and do everything right outside of football to make the best of it.
"I'm a football player so I like a challenge. I'm not going to run away from any challenge.
"I wanted to come to Hull City because the manager (Liam Rosenior) has a really good style of play, good vision, and I'm looking forward to helping the team to reach our goals.
"I had other offers from abroad but I decided to come back to England because it's a country I like and I missed it a little bit."
On a personal level, it was a good start for Lokilo when he made his debut at home to Doncaster on Tuesday. His run from deep set Hull up and running by creating the opening goal for Oscar Estupinan in the League Cup first-round tie. His pace and movement going down and coming in off the right caused his old club problems.
That was important because others had been given the first chance whilst Lokilo watched Hull's Championship opener – a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City – as an unused substitute. So the pressure was on those brought into the side to make their cases, and whilst some struggled, he thrived.
"Every footballer has some kind of point to prove so when you get that chance from the gaffer you try to play well,” he says. “Everyone has that little feeling.
"It was special to me to play my first official game (for Hull) so I needed to show the fans what I can do. It's not always easy but I try my best and hopefully they can see even more in the upcoming games.
"It was the perfect start for me to gain a bit of confidence.
"As a forward player you shouldn't be scared to try to play your game because otherwise why would you want to play for Hull City if you're scared to get on the ball and try to show the fans what you have got?"
But collectively it was a bad day at the office, the League Two side quickly sussing out their more heralded hosts and coming back to win 2-1 with goals from George Miller. In Lokilo's eyes, that overshadowed all the positives.
"I was buzzing when I knew I was starting but when you lose a game like that, it doesn't really matter," he says. "You can be happy (at playing) but if you lose a game like that and go out of the cup in the first round, you can't really be happy.
"It's unacceptable to lose like that. Hull City's a massive club.
"We expected to win against a League Two side in Doncaster, I'm really disappointed. You can't lose those kind of games at home.”
A Yorkshire derby offers a good chance to make amends, and Lokilo will be hoping he has done enough to get the opportunity at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
“As football players we're lucky because you always have the chance to make it right and we're going to have to do it on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday,” he points out.
"We're going to have to come back on Saturday with hunger and try to win the game because the fans deserve to see something different to what they saw on Tuesday."
Summer signing Ruben Vinagre, one of only two outfield players to start Hull’s opening two games along with Adama Traore is an injury doubt for the weekend with a thigh problem.
Harry Vaughan is considered “touch and go” after injuring his ankle on the opening weekend.
Meanwhile Rosenior feels he is on the brink of a big transfer breakthrough, albeit probably too late to influence Saturday’s game.
“There is going to be some exciting news coming in the next few days, I can say that with a lot of certainty now, which is why I'm smiling," he said.