Video: Want to bend it like Beckham and dribble like Ronaldo? Suffolk’s own YouTube football sensation Steve Roberts is inspiring a generation
12:49 05 April 2014
The World Cup year could prove to be memorable for Steve Roberts.
As the likes of Gerard and Rooney attempt to win glory on the field, the 32-year-old from Bury St Edmunds hopes to win the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of youngsters; teaching them how to pass, shoot and dribble like their heroes.
A football coach to local players for 14 years, Steve turned to YouTube to keep in contact with his players and to allow them to learn away from his STR Skill sessions.
“Coaching and teaching was always a big thing for me,” he said. “I saw a gap in YouTube because I was searching for skills and sessions that I could email to parents. But what was out there was pretty poor. The information was awful and I was confident that I, as a coach, could get the information out in the right way. I decided to test it out.”
Following some early experiments in August 2009, the STR Skills channel was launched properly in February 2010.
Steve explains he still feels “overwhelmed” by the response.
“I got worldwide instant recognition. People from the States, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, from all around the world, were watching it. It makes you feel that there is value in what you’re doing. But also all the comments from around the world were saying, ‘Can you make more’ or ‘This is amazing’, so I decided to like try and upload as many videos I could.”
It has been four years since Steve recorded a Ronaldo free-kick tutorial, something he credits with kick-starting his YouTube career, and things are getting serious.
The channel, a full time job since June last year, now has almost half a million subscribers and has so far received a staggering 73million views.
His growing popularity has also led to his involvement in filming at the London Olympics and partnerships with major sporting brands, including Nike, Adidas and more recently Vauxhall – the sponsor of home nations football.
The deal with Vauxhall will see Steve produce a number of his skills videos with members of the England team.
“It’ll be things like How to play like Steven Gerard, with Steven Gerard, rather than me. Having the superstars on the channel will be incredible. I have already filmed one video involving one of the biggest world cup stars of this year.
“I can’t mention it, but when it’s released it’ll probably be one of the biggest things on YouTube.”
Steve, who admits to still feeling “a little bit” star struck, also recently shared screens with four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. The Argentine star was a surprise guest at a Google Hangout organised by YouTube football channel Copa90. The video, which features Steve’s shocked face as Messi ‘dropped in’ to listen to a discussion about his techniques, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Steve hopes the extra exposure afforded by his work with the world’s most famous players, could push him towards his goal of 1million subscribers.
Although the channel has obvious entertainment value – you’ve probably seen one of the viral Insane Football Skills videos without realising – the former County Upper schoolboy believes his channel is still broadly about education.
“I love coaching and YouTube means I can coach the world as opposed to just local people. It’s not just about skills, it’s about the psychology, fitness and nutrition – mind body and soul.”
Having moved from shooting videos in lunch breaks to hanging out at La Masia (Barcelona’s training ground), Steve hopes that even if people don’t try out his skills they can still be inspired by his story.
“I believe over the last four years that if you put the hard work in, it definitely pays off. I would say to anyone, if they have the knowledge, expertise or passion for anything. They should never stop following their interests, there is a way for them to express that and show it. Everyone should do what they love”
Steve who was part of the fledgling Bury Football Academy at West Suffolk College in Bury before getting his first job at Ipswich Town, said he believed schools should encourage individual talent.
“Everyone has a special talent. I’ve created a job for myself and I’ve shown that you can create work for yourself. “You don’t have to go to university to do what you love and earn money. But it does take a lot of effort and I wouldn’t have got to where I got to without effort. Just remember to work hard and never give up.”