Qatar-Bound And Flying High
Wolves Coach Has Much To Savour
We had a rare full-on sighting of him when Wolves drew at Chelsea last month and are set to see much more in the coming months.
No-one could say Tony Roberts has been high-profile since his installation as goalkeeper coach at Molineux last summer but his stock must be as inflated as his spirits these days following the Player of the Year contribution of Jose Sa and Wayne Hennessey’s on-going heroics with Wales.
Roberts continues to serve at international level in his dual roles and must still be glowing about the former Wolves man’s match-winning performance against Ukraine last Sunday – one that created the mouth-watering possibility of him lining up against England in a potential World Cup group decider in Al Rayyan on November 29.
While England take on Italy tonight in the first half of Molineux’s thrilling double header, Wales have a big Nations League challenge of their own with a visit to Cardiff by Belgium in group A4.
Leicester’s Danny Ward and Sheffield United’s Adam Davies shared the goalkeeper duties when Rob Page’s team were brought back to earth with a last-gasp midweek home defeat against Holland and uncertainty surrounds the no 1 position looking ahead towards the finals.
Hennessey, who now has a staggering 102 caps, was starved of first-team chances during Burnley’s Premier League season but senior man Nick Pope – partly with his England career in mind – is expected to leave Turf Moor this summer.
And that might open the door in the Championship for the 35-year-old Molineux graduate, who last weekend produced what Gareth Bale described as the best performance he had ever seen from a keeper.
Roberts has the same North Wales roots as the player and himself made two senior appearances for the principality in the first half of the 1990s.
He was mid-way through a long and not always rewarding QPR stint at the time of his introduction and, after playing more briefly for Millwall, St Albans City and Atlanta Steelbacks, amassed an astonshing 445 games for Dagenham and Redbridge either side of their elevation to the Football League.
He has since been part of the backroom teams at QPR, Arsenal, Swansea, Birmingham and with Wales, his standing at Wolves seeing to it that he was on interview duty before and after the May 7 draw at Stamford Bridge, when covid took a bite out of the club’s management team.
Roberts did not play against anyone as powerful as tonight’s two Molineux combatants but he did face Italy’s minnow neighbours, San Marino, in one of his two games.
He was also selected 30 times as back-up to Neville Southall and became the first Welshman to be capped at both full and semi-professional level as he helped his country win the non-League ‘Home International’ series twice.