The X-Men: Iwan Roberts
FOOTBALLERS cite all manner of reasons for joining one club over another, but when Iwan Roberts left Caernarfon Town in 1985 to join Watford as a trainee, the presence of two fluent Welsh speakers was enough to persuade him to leave the comforts of home.
Now utilising his ability to speak the Welsh language fluently by working in the Welsh media, Roberts recalls arriving at Vicarage Road: "I was playing for the Wales Under-18s school team and the manager at the time, I can`t remember his name, but he was one of [former youth team coach] Tom Walley`s best friends. He pointed me out to Tom," explains Roberts, now 45.
"I knew Malcolm Allen was playing for the club, I played against Malcolm in the local leagues in north Wales, I knew he was a fluent Welsh speaker. Tom offered me a trial for a couple of weekends and I jumped at it. Knowing there were two Welsh language speakers there already, I just thought it would make it a lot easier, even though it was a long way from north Wales."
And as Roberts quickly learned, the Welsh Valleys and Hertfordshire are worlds apart in more than just geographical terms.
"It was a big move for me. You`re talking four and a half or five hours away on the outskirts of north London. I was from a small village in north Wales. The majority of the apprentices we had at the club at that time were all from the London area. It was all new to me; at the time my fashion sense probably wasn`t what it should have been compared to the London boys, but I soon learnt!" laughs Roberts.
Owing to the calibre of centre-forwards at the club, Roberts found first-team opportunities at Vicarage Road hard to come by and nine league starts was the longest run in the Hornets` first-team he was able to muster, something he found frustrating.
"I was still young, I was still learning my trade, we had some very, very good centre-forwards at the club who had experience and if they were fit they were always going to be picked ahead of me. It wasn`t frustrating in the first two or three years as it was at the end of my career at the club," concedes Roberts.
Nine goals in 83 appearances was the sum total of Roberts` stay in WD18, but the Welsh international would go on to enjoy goalscoring success with Huddersfield Town, Leicester City, Wolves and Norwich before hanging up his boots in 2005.Remember! This is a preview of the full 'X-Men` interview which will appear in tonight`s programme for the League Cup tie with Norwich City. Make sure to pick up a copy to read Iwan`s memories of his career away from the Vic`.