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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

U’s double-winning stars of 1991-92, Part Six: Paul Roberts

PUBLISHED: 07:19 04 June 2012

Paul Roberts, back in the blue-and-white of Colchester United at Kem Izzet's Testimonial last month

Paul Roberts, back in the blue-and-white of Colchester United at Kem Izzet's Testimonial last month

Archant

In part six of our seven-part series, we talk to Paul Roberts, who was the chatterbox and the mastermind of the U’s defence

PAUL Roberts was never short of a word or two (or three!), but his jovial nature and constant chattering was to have a huge impact on Colchester United’s success story of 20 years ago.

Before experienced defender Roberts arrived at Layer Road, in the late autumn of 1992, the U’s were not exactly taking the non-league stage by storm.

Beaten 3-2 at home by Farnborough, and held to draws at Witton (2-2) and Cheltenham (1-1), the month of September was hurting the U’s promotion cause.

Enter “Robbo,” however, and the U’s were transformed into a better organised defensive unit.

Recruited for just £750 from Fisher Athletic, Roberts made his debut in the infamous 2-1 win at promotion rivals Wycombe on September 28.

The U’s, and 29-year-old Roberts, never looked back. Operating as a sweeper, Roberts marshalled the U’s defence with a smile and a glint in his eye.

United did not lose another game in the Conference until Boxing Day, 2-1 at Redbridge, a 13-game unbeaten run that had put them on track for a return to the Football League.

“We had good team spirit, but when I first joined the team was in a bit of a lull, to be honest with you,” explained Roberts.

“They had just had a couple of bad results, but we got a bit fortunate in my first game against Wycombe (winning goal by keeper Scott Barrett), and we never looked back from there.

“I thought we were head and shoulders above everyone else in the league.

“Colchester was blessed with some very good players, who were perhaps too good for the Conference.

“I’ve been driving a London taxi for the last 14 years, so there’s been a lot of time to do some thinking, and reflect back to that time.

“And I firmly believe that if we hadn’t gone up that season, then maybe Colchester United as a football club, in its current form, wouldn’t still exist?

“If we had missed out on promotion, then club may have had to cash in, by selling players like Mark Kinsella and Steve McGavin.

“That’s not me patting us all on the back, and we certainly didn’t think this at the time, but I think the club had to thank their lucky stars that it did get up that year.

“We were mostly young lads, who didn’t look at it that deeply.

“We just got a little bonus for getting up, but that was a pittance. We were just fortunate to get up,” added Roberts.

East Londoner Roberts has always been good friends with then-player-boss McDonough, but he is the first to admit that the U’s boss was no tactical genius.

“Roy is an old pal of mine, but technically he wasn’t the greatest coach you are ever likely to meet!” admitted Roberts.

“His basic tactic was to score one more goal than the other team! No one would care if we won 5-4.

“We played three centre-halves, and I was the sweeper, usually alongside Shaun Elliott and Tony English.

“We were the backbone of the team. We also had full-backs Nicky Smith and Warren Donald bombing up the wings.

“And they all did as I told them!” joked Roberts

Roberts, now 50, went on to be an ever-present in the U’s first season back in the Football League, scooping a number of player-of-the-year awards at the end of the season.

However, his game slipped a little during the following campaign, and he was disappointed to be released in the summer of 1994, at the age of 32.

He dabbled with non-league, but soon drifted away from the game.

Although he was been happy in his role as a London cabbie, for the last 14 years, he does regret not pursuing a longer career in football, as a coach.

“I was player-of-the-season in 1992-93, winning lots of awards, but the following season wasn’t the greatest,” recalled Roberts.

“Yet I still felt hard done by, when I left. It could have been handled better, with the hierarchy at the club.

“But there’s no point in crying about it now.

“After 1994, I was player-manager of Chesham United for a while.

“But the non-league didn’t really suit me, if I’m being honest. It was hard to keep up with it, mentally.

“I suppose if I had my time again, I would try to get into coaching, so that I could put something back into the game.”

Mark Heath, Andy Warren and Stuart Watson are back with another episode of the Kings of Anglia podcast.

Trevoh Chalobah was proud to captain England Under 20s in their 2-0 victory over Germany at Colchester on Monday night but has already turned his attention to Ipswich Town’s Friday clash with West Brom.

Ipswich Town left-back Jonas Knudsen says he is ready to talk to other clubs in January.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert is clear on his January recruitment strategy following a meeting with owner Marcus Evans yesterday.

In our daily feature, we take a look at what happened on this day in Ipswich Town’s history. Today features John Wark scoring twice in a draw with Swindon, while the Blues progressed in the League Cup.

Ipswich Town assistant manager Stuart Taylor believes the international break has offered the perfect chance for the Blues squad to bond further following the arrival of Paul Lambert.

Ipswich Town midfielder Andre Dozzell believes he is finally back up to speed following his year-long injury absence.

England Under 20s beat Germany 2-0 at Colchester this evening. ANDY WARREN was there to see how Trevoh Chalobah, Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes got on

Paul Lambert is confident Ipswich Town can quickly overturn their five point deficit if they continue the progress they have made in the early weeks of his reign.

Ipswich Town’s Under-23s beat their Crystal Palace counterparts 5-2 at Playford Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his observations.

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