Iwan yearns for return to Norfolk
CHRIS LAKEY It's a sight many Canaries fans would love to see again - Iwan Roberts wearing the Norwich City badge. But don't hold your breath, the big man isn't about to make a return to Carrow Road, as a coach or a player.
It's a sight many Canaries fans would love to see again - Iwan Roberts wearing the Norwich City badge. But don't hold your breath, the big man isn't about to make a return to Carrow Road, as a coach or a player.
“It's funny, I got a text from a mate this week saying he'd heard a rumour I was back in Norwich and going to re-sign,” laughed Roberts. “I texted him back and said 'afraid not'.”
Roberts was back in the city, wearing the colours and kicking a football - but the crowd attendance was 160 youngsters taking part in a Football in the Community-backed striker's course. The venue? Pinebanks sports club.
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Now 38, Roberts' most direct connection with football comes through his work with BBC Radio Wales, where having the gift of the Welsh gab is a distinct and rare advantage, and coaching his son Ben's Under-16s side back home in Kent.
So would he ever fancy the step up to full-time coaching - and with the club he served so well for seven years.
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“As far as coaching goes, it's getting the opportunity somewhere really,” he said. “Most of the coaching I do I do with Ben's team. They are a good age, they want to listen, they want to learn, but is whether you get an opportunity somewhere. I have done the first part of my A licence last year. I was supposed to finish it off and get my A licence this year, which means you can coach anywhere in the world, but I lost my father I n June and this course was starting the week after that. I didn't go because I wanted to be with my mum and they said I could go back next year. I want to get my badges, but at the minute I really enjoy what I am doing with BBC Wales. It has kept me involved in the game without all the pressure of being a coach and being a manager, without losing touch and looking all old and grey.
“But if an opportunity came up at the club I'd be a fool not to take it. Whether one will who knows?
“I would love to come back to the area. I lived here for seven years, it is a great place to bring the kids up and live, it is just getting an opportunity, whether it is here or anywhere else. Maybe a mate of mine gets a job somewhere, he needs an assistant manager or first team coach, who can I get? Oh, give Robbo a ring - that's how it goes.
“At the minute I don't really want to move the kids away from where they are. Ben's in the last year of school so it wouldn't be right for me to move anywhere just now.”
Which means any of those who dream of seeing the big man back at Carrow Road in the foreseeable future are likely to be disappointed.
And there would clearly be a bridge or two to rebuild for Roberts after some stinging criticism of one of last year's performances, the 2-0 defeat at Burnley in March - a performance in which, he said, some players lacked desire and commitment. No names were mentioned, but there was little need to read between the lines for the clues this week.
“Maybe I was a bit harsh in what I said because I do know how hard it is for players to settle,” he reflected.
“It is hard when you're in and out of a hotel and you have to travel to see your family up north. I went through it in my first season here. Now he has got a settled team, players have settled into the area. I have always known Robbo (Carl Robinson) is a good player because I was with him at Wolves, I have seen him play for Wales many times - he's a great passer of the ball, never gives it away. Dickson Etuhu is full of energy, a great athlete.
“So Nigel has signed good players and you are getting the benefit now. It does take time to settle into a new environment, it is not easy, you have to get to know your new team-mates and people expect results overnight. Don't get me wrong, it can happen like that. When I signed for Leicester on my debut I scored two goals - and you score two on your debut and it's is a massive, massive weight off your shoulders.
“I think you look at how the season has started for the club and you have to give all credit to the gaffer and to the players, because they took a bit of criticism last year. I said I was disappointed with the performance they put on at Burnley. I thought at the time I was right to say that. But all credit, they have come back and they are more determined this year to prove a lot of people wrong by the way they have started.”
Roberts' commentating obligations almost scuppered his plans to travel to Norwich this week, but some quick re-arranging with Football in the Community director Ian Thornton meant he was here to pas son tips to the youngsters.
“I have been patron of FITC for about five years now so I have been involved for quite a long time,” he said. “My children, Ben, Eva and Chase came up for two weeks ever summer, and when they give the medals and trophies out I do quite a lot of that. I think it's important that kids get to see role models, especially in a city like Norwich and a community like Norwich because it is a close community.
“Ian asked me two or three months ago, I said, 'brilliant, no problem whatsoever'. Then last week I got a phone call saying my flight to Prague for the Wales game at the weekend is on Thursday. I thought, 'how am I going to tell Ian'? But we managed to get it brought forward by a day and it's been fantastic.
“It's great to come back to Norwich, I love coming back - I don't want to go back to Kent after I've been here for a couple of days.”
A sentiment shared by more than a few Norwich fans.