Rochdale manager Keith Hill said after watching his side draw 2-2 with Chesterfield last Saturday that Gary Roberts “is probably the stand out player of the league“. In my opinion Hill isn’t far wrong whilst I’m not a regular watcher of League Two football I know Gary Roberts is too good to play at that level having seen him play week in week out for Huddersfield Town for the best part of four years.
It was a surprise to me that he had dropped down to League Two but Chesterfield are a club on the up and are tipped by many to achieve promotion this season. Spireites manager Paul Cook played alongside Roberts when the two played for Accrington Stanley with no doubt Cook will be delighted to have brought him to the Proact Stadium and so far so good for Roberts in his start to his Chesterfield career scoring two goals and having an assist to his name in four matches. I watched the 29-year old in a pre-season friendly against Huddersfield Town and he ran the show, scoring against his former club after just 11 minutes and ended up receiving the man-of-the-match award.
As a Terriers fan my memories of Gary Roberts are tearing rivals Bradford City apart in a league cup game and scoring a superb equalising goal with the outside of the foot, similar to Ryan Giggs’ against Fulham a few years ago, against Leeds United. For me Roberts was a good servant for Huddersfield Town his flair and trickery was at times a joy to watch he is a type of player that has the ability to produce something out of the blue to change a game. His first season with the club was arguably his best winning both fans and player’s player of the year award and was the brightest of spark in Stan Ternent’s horrible but short reign in charge. The one and only positive thing Ternent did for the club was bring in Roberts for £250,000 from Ipswich Town.
His stats during his 4-year spell with the Terriers are impressive making 194 appearances (164 of those were starts) scoring 39 goals and had 53 assists but Roberts is not without his faults. He divides opinion amongst Huddersfield Town fans as some found his style of play frustrating often citing he’s a one-footed player that being his left foot (even though he scored 8 goals with his right foot), lethargic and had a tendency to go missing when the tough got going. Roberts isn’t slow but his lack of real pace probably held him back from playing at Championship level week-in-week-out he did have a brief two-year spell with Ipswich Town where he only made 24 appearances making just 11 starts.
Some Terriers fans say he wasn’t the same after he broke his arm against Swindon Town during the 2010/11 season which kept him out for six weeks. Some questioned his commitment after Roberts turned down a new contract offer at the start of the 2011/12 season but even though he was linked with clubs in the Championship at the time he returned with a healthy 11 assists and 7 goals in 33 appearances and also scored a penalty in the dramatic penalty shoot-out in the play-off final at Wembley where Huddersfield Town achieved promotion to the Championship over Sheffield United.
It did come as a bit of a surprise to me during the summer of 2012 he stayed in League One aged 28 joining the Paolo Di Canio revolution at Swindon Town at the time. Di Canio left due to off-field financial problems but Roberts helped the Robins finish in the play-offs where they lost in the semi-finals to Brentford. Roberts was let go by Swindon at the end of last season with a year left on his contract most likely due to the club cutting their cloth accordingly, no doubt his highlight during single season at the County Ground was scoring from inside his own half against Tranmere Rovers.
I noticed in the Chesterfield-Huddersfield Town friendly that Roberts looked to have been given a free role often drifting in from the wing to the hole in behind the striker but Chesterfield will reap the rewards from having a player who could easily play in a team chasing promotion from League One and would be a decent squad player for a team in the lower half of the Championship.