MARC HIM OUT AS ONE TO FLY

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Dan Barnes

WHO’S to say just how far Marc Roberts’ ca­reer will go? Af­ter all, he seems to have found life in the EFL a rel­a­tive dod­dle so far.

He’s one of the lat­est in the boom­ing trend of play­ers blaz­ing a trail in the pro­fes­sional ranks af­ter be­ing plucked from rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity.

In just un­der two sea­sons the de­fender has helped Barnsley win the League One play-off fi­nal at Wem­b­ley and then re­tain their Cham­pi­onship sta­tus quite com­fort­ably.

A Barnsley boy by birth, the 26-year-old even be­came the cap­tain of his home-town club three months ago, and he’s al­ready been linked with a multi-mil­lion pound move to the Premier League.

It’s been quite a rise for a man who first played se­nior foot­ball in Di­vi­sion One North of the North­ern Premier League.

From the out­side, it might ap­pear that Roberts, who ar­rived at Oak­well in May 2015 af­ter catch­ing the eye at Na­tional League Hal­i­fax Town, has adapted to the se­nior ranks with con­sum­mate ease, but he ad­mits it’s been a whirl­wind.

“It feels like I’ve had five sea­sons rolled into two,” said the for­mer Eng­land C in­ter­na­tional, speak­ing af­ter tak­ing part in the Kits for Kids cam­paign, run by Wickes, of­fi­cial part­ner of the EFL.

“I’ve come a long way since leav­ing Hal­i­fax. I was 24 when I moved to Barnsley and I’d got to the point where I felt I had to make it then or do the right thing and look for an­other ca­reer.

“I’d never been at an academy. I just went straight into men’s com­pet­i­tive foot­ball in Non-League and worked my way up from there.

“There are mo­ments when you doubt your­self, but you just have to step up to the plate and I’m ever so proud of what I’ve done so far.

“The coaches at Barnsley have been great. They’ve had me work­ing on ar­eas I’d never thought of be­fore and I’ve de­vel­oped so much as a player.”

Roberts, whose Non-League roll of hon­our also in­cludes Wakefield Town, Work­sop Town and Bux­ton, prob­a­bly never imag­ined he’d need to make so much ex­tra room on his man­tel­piece dur­ing a sen­sa­tional first sea­son with the Tykes.

The de­fender’s maiden cam­paign at Oak­well proved a glit­ter­ing one, with Roberts help­ing Barnsley to beat Ox­ford United 3-2 at Wem­b­ley last April and win­ning the John­stone’s Paint Tro­phy for the first time in their his­tory.

Less than two months later, he was back at the home of English foot­ball clutch­ing yet an­other piece of sil­ver­ware. Roberts again played 90 min­utes as the Tykes saw off Mill­wall 3-1 to win the League One play-off fi­nal.

De­spite those two un­for­get­table vic­to­ries, a far more per­sonal mo­ment to savour ar­rived in Jan­uary this year, when Roberts was ap­pointed Barnsley cap­tain af­ter Conor Houri­hane left for As­ton Villa.

Linked

The Tykes skip­per’s form has not gone un­no­ticed.

In much the same way as his for­mer cen­tral de­fen­sive part­ner, Al­fie Maw­son, who joined Swansea for £5.5mil­lion last sum­mer, Roberts has been linked with the likes of West Brom and Burn­ley, who were even ru­moured to have agreed a fee with Barnsley in Jan­uary.

“You see these things and you have to try to take it all with a pinch of salt,” he said.

“You try to ig­nore it when you’re linked away, but it hap­pens to a lot of peo­ple at this club. It’s tes­ta­ment to the coach­ing staff here that there are ru­mours about so many of our play­ers.

“I’m just con­cen­trat­ing on lead­ing Barnsley out at Oak­well and wear­ing the cap­tain’s arm­band with pride.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

RED RISE: Barnsley’s Marc Roberts in ac­tion against Brighton and, in­set, af­ter win­ning the John­stone’s Paint Tro­phy at Wem­b­ley

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