Striker Hoping To Be Bursting With Pride
Iwan Roberts has described the prospect of a Welsh victory in Amsterdam today as the perfect present for his 53rd birthday.
The former Wolves striker is a familiar voice – often in Welsh – on various BBC platforms but spoke the language more familiar to us when interviewed on air by breakfast TV presenter Sally Nugent this week.
Bearded and looking well and relaxed as he enjoyed the sunshine in Rome after Wales emerged from a tough European Championship group in second place, he looked ahead to the first knock-out round and the meeting with Denmark.
“That first half against Turkey was as good a 45 minutes as I have seen from a Welsh side since France in 2016,” he told viewers. “If we can reproduce that, we can go a long way, maybe to a semi-final again.
“I’m confident that if we can perform as we did against Turkey, we will be through to the last eight.”
Roberts is relishing his broadcast duties at the tournament, although the striker in him has led to him casting a critical eye over the scoring opportunities squandered in different games by the side’s two top stars, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
“We have to take those chances when they come our way,” he added. “When we looked at the group when it came out, I thought it was much harder than what we had five years ago in France.”
Of his birthday today, Roberts said: It isn’t a big one, thankfully. There won’t be any presents. The best present I could have in Amsterdam is a Welsh win that would take us to the quarter-finals. That would make me a happy Welshman.”
It is 25 years this autumn since a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory over Albion at The Hawthorns provided him with by far the happiest memory of his one-season stay at Molineux.
His output with Wolves was modest considering the heights he hit elsewhere – a fact reflected in the knowledge that none of his 15 Welsh caps were won while he was serving in the West Midlands under his former Leicester boss Mark McGhee.
Having won his first chance in 1989 against Holland while with Watford, he was selected again in 1992 as a Huddersfield player and made further inroads by appearing in the Kirin Cup in Japan – a tournament in which he has the sad memory of receiving a red card.
He continued to be named during qualification games for Euro 96 when he was at Leicester but the trail went cold after his move to Molineux in the summer of 1996 and he wasn’t called up again by his country until 2000 when he made three appearances in friendlies.
Four more outings followed in the qualification stages for the 2002 World Cup and, although most of his games were as a substitute, his failure to score for Wales over a 12-year period is the biggest regret of his career.
“I had to compete against the likes of Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Dean Saunders, though, so there were some world-class strikers before me and I was just happy to get in the squad,” he once said.