Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Where are they now: Christian Roberts

28 February 2013

Former Bristol City attacking midfielder Christian Roberts would be the first person to admit his football career had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster.

The Welshman enjoyed spells at a number of clubs in The Football League, but he suffered with personal problems and injuries that prevented him from sustaining his best form.

After taking a break and distancing himself from football following his retirement in 2011, Welshman Roberts is now back, passing on some of his experiences, and educating youngsters.

"A year after I retired, while I was on a coaching course, I stumbled across an organisation that does a lot of anti-racism work," Roberts explained.

"I had always wanted to try and work with kids, to educate them, and this work allows me to do that. I've been doing it ever since I stopped playing and I reckon I've spoken to around 20,000 kids in three years."

Racism has become a hot topic in football of late, with certain instances hitting the headlines, but Roberts believes some of the incidents are about helping people understand the problem.

And he is relishing his return, following what he felt was a much-needed break after calling time on his 14-year career.

"My role is to challenge people and give them the chance to talk about it, it's a perfect opportunity for people to educate themselves about what racism is as a whole.

"It's clear people are still unaware about what it is, so I go into schools and prisons and it's fantastic. It's about working in communities where people perhaps aren't as well educated as others.

"Going to schools every day is a pleasure and really gives me the sense that I can give something back.

"Hanging up your boots is very hard and I had to deal with that. I also lost my father around the same time, so it was a tough period of change for me.

"Now, doing this work is a link to the game and it's nice to be back. I'm now building more and more relationships within football again and I hope that continues."

What's clear, is that Roberts - always open and honest - has his passion back for a game that gave him, and those who watched him in action, so many enjoyable moments.

He started out at Cardiff City then moved to Exeter City, where he was a regular scorer, before bagging a number of crucial goals for Bristol City as they flirted with promotion, and for Swindon Town.

"I loved every minute of my football career," he enthused. "When I played for Bristol City we had a fantastic two years and I feel very privileged to have been a part of that.

"I scored the perfect hat-trick [right foot, left foot, header] for City at Barnsley, which was probably my favourite moment on a football pitch. The only unfortunate thing was that we never actually went on to achieve what we should have done.

"I adored my 18-month spell at Exeter and then at Swindon which, in all honesty, was a beautiful family club. All the clubs I played for were great clubs and I loved the people that surrounded them.

"That includes Cardiff City, who I was only with for a short time and who I only played a few games for. That's probably the only part of my career where I feel I wasn't perhaps given the opportunity I deserved, but I still enjoyed it."

Roberts won promotion from League 2 with Swindon in 2006, so it's not surprising he remembers his spell at the County Ground with particular fondness.

And if he were ever to return to the front line in football, and delve into management, the 33-year-old believes he would like to try and emulate the most significant manager of his career.

"If I did ever get into management I think I would be most like my former boss at Swindon, Andy King.

"He was a lovely individual and that's what I liked about him most. He was arguably the best manager I played under.

"He just wanted his players to go and enjoy football. Some managers get into people's heads, but I think the best managers are the ones who can allow players to express themselves."

King, now assistant to Aidy Boothroyd at npower League 2 Northampton Town, was just one of several managers that Roberts played under during his career, and he operated in a number of positions in the attacking third of the pitch for the teams he represented.

Yet he says he produced his best form when he was given opportunities to roam free under 56-year-old King, during his career that contained many problems.

Roberts believes football is now opening up to some of the issues he experienced as a player.

"I read a lot about what players and former players talk about in terms of depression, people like Stan Collymore for example, and I think it's a good thing.

"I wrote a book about my career and my life and it was one of the best things I've ever done, to put it all down and see what the outcome of my experiences were. I had some great responses to it.

"It's funny though, having left football, I'm really realising how hard life really is. When you come out of the game you have to stand on your own two feet and it's very hard.

"Looking back, I probably hid a few problems by playing football. You get a lot done for you but outside, in the real world, you have to fend for yourself."

His post-career exploits are a sign of how far Roberts has come - he's now not only standing on his own two feet, he's also helping others.

And who knows, you might just see Roberts barking instructions from the touchline one day.

For all the latest news on Bristol City please click here

Advertisement block