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A-Z of West Midlands Football

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 25, 2014

By Tony Matthews

  • Iwan Roberts, with strike partner Steve Bull on his back

  • Jason Roberts

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BRIAN 'HARRY' ROBERTS

was a decent full-back, hard-tackling, well-drilled, competitive and above all a true professional.

Born in Manchester in November 1955, he joined Coventry City in as an apprentice in 1972, turned professional at Highfield Road two years later and went on to make 215 first-class appearances for the Sky Blues, and had a loan spell with Hereford United, before joining Birmingham City for £10,000 in March 1984… acquired via the fans' 'Buy-a-Player Fund'.

He added a further 213 senior appearances to his total with Blues, and after getting rid of the boo-boys, he became a cult hero at St Andrew's.

In June 1990 'Harry' moved to Wolves on a free transfer in June 1990 and after just 24 outings in the gold and black strip, he retired in May 1992, at which point he returned to Coventry where he became reserve team coach while also acting as a scout. He did some soccer coaching from time to time at Knightlow School, Stretton-on-Dunsmore in Warwickshire and also wrote a witty column in the local newspaper, as well as releasing his book 'Harry's Game.'

HARRY ROBERTS, who started his professional career with Chesterfield in September 1939, was engaged by Birmingham City as an outside-left for some two-and-a-half years, from November 1948 until June 1951. In that time he scored three goals in 38 appearances before moving to Shrewsbury Town, later assisting Scunthorpe United (from July 1953-May 1956) and then Gresley Rovers; Harry retired in the summer of 1957.

A former commando, born in Liverpool in January 1920 and now deceased, he made over 200 League appearances for his four major clubs.

IWAN ROBERTS was a Welsh international striker who represented his country at four levels: schoolboy, youth, 'B' and senior, winning nine full caps (six goals).

Born in Bangor in June 1968 and brought up in Dyffrgn Ardudwy, Gwynned, he played his early football with Caernarfon Town before joining Watford as an apprentice in 1985, turning professional the following year.

After losing his front teeth at the age of 18, and netting 12 goals in 83 games for the Hornets, he was transferred to Huddersfield Town for £275,000 in August 1990. He then switched to Leicester City in November 1993, having scored 68 goals in 182 games for the Yorkshire Terriers, and after claiming another 45 goals in 111 games for the Foxes, he moved to Molineux for £1 million in July 1996.

Standing 6ft 3ins tall, he bagged 12 goals in 38 appearances for Wolves, including a hat-trick in a 4-2 League win over Albion at The Hawthorns, he left the club in June 1997, sold by manager Mark McGhee to Norwich City, also for £1 million.

He was replaced by the Finn, Mixu Paatelainen.

Aggressive and strong in the air, Iwan continued to hit the target with the Canaries (97 goals in 306 appearances), Gillingham (as player-coach and assistant-manager: three goals in 24) and also with Cambridge United (on loan, three in 11). When he retired from top-class football in August 2005, he had rattled in 239 goals in 753 club games – a fine return. Roberts, who has a UEFA 'A' coaching licence, currently works for BBC Wales.

JACK ROBERTS scored 14 goals in 25 appearances as a utility forward for Wolves whom he served for just one season: 1906-07. Born in Walsall in 1885, he played for Darlaston initially and on leaving Molineux he signed for Bristol Rovers, returning to the Black Country to assist Stourbridge and Walsall Phoenix before retiring during the Great War. It is believed that Jack died in the Midlands before 1970.

JASON ROBERTS, MBE, was a fine goalscorer on his day. Born in Park Royal, London in January 1978, he played for Parkfield Youth Club, was associated with the respective academies of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford and had a month's trial with Wycombe Wanderers before joining Hayes in August 1994.

He was then snapped up by Wolves for £250,000 in September 1997 but never played a game for the Wanderers and after loan spells with Torquay United (December 1997-February 1998) and Bristol City (March-April 1998) he joined the other Bristol club, Rovers for £250,000 in August 1998.

From there he signed for West Bromwich Albion in a £2 million deal in July 2000 and after further loan spells, with Portsmouth (September-December 2003) and Wigan Athletic (January 2004) joined the latter club on a permanent basis for £1.4 million in February 2004).

Later with Blackburn Rovers (from July 2006) and Reading (from January 2012) he retired from competitive football in 2013, having scored 168 goals in 509 club matches, while also netting seven times in 10 internationals for Grenada.

Related to former Albion, Coventry, Wolves and Villa star Cyrille Regis, Dave Regis (ex-Birmingham City), Otis Roberts (an ex-Grenada international) and the Olympic runner John Regis, Jason was signed by Baggies' boss Gary Megson for a club record fee in July 2000, having netted 48 goals in only 93 first-team appearances in two seasons with Bristol Rovers.

Partnering Lee Hughes in Albion's attack, he had an excellent first season at The Hawthorns, claiming 17 goals in 50 outings.

However, a couple of foot injuries disrupted his progress in 2001-02 and he only managed seven strikes in 17 appearances, but his efforts during the two-and-a-half months after Christmas helped place the wheels in motion for automatic promotion into the Premiership.

Roberts, who went on to win ten caps for Grenada, found it hard going in the top flight, having to withstand a fair amount of buffeting from the sturdy defenders. He struggled at times and when Albion were relegated he demanded a transfer. There were no firm offers and eventually he returned to the Premiership with Portsmouth before reverting back to Nationwide soccer with Wigan in 2004, ironically replacing Geoff Horsfield who had been sold to Albion!

Jason helped Wigan reach the Premiership in 2005 and seven years later was a Championship winner with Reading.

Jason, who played for a Rest of the World XI (with his Baggies' team-mate Darren Moore) against an African XI at Bolton in 2002-03 and is an ardent Celtic supporter, founded the Jason Roberts Foundation in 2007, which aims 'to provide a range of sporting opportunities for children and young people in the UK and Grenada'.

And for his efforts he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours list.

Upon receiving the award he stated in one of Blackburn's match-day programme notes that he was humbled to get it and thanked everyone who has supported his charity work.

A top man through and through.

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