Jason Roberts on his dream debut for Latics at Preston, his brotherhood with Nathan Ellington and Jason Jarrett, Paul Jewell's leadership and his current position with CONCACAF in Miami.
- Jason Roberts exclusive: "It was the dream debut."
- Goal scoring idol Jason on his time at Latics and his relationship with the Duke and Jason Jarrett.
- Roberts on his current role in international football in Central and North America and the Caribbean.
It's not every day we have a former player calling us from Miami, but this week we did! Iconic goal scorer Jason Roberts, the man who helped rocket Latics into the top flight and scored our first ever Premier League goal, took some time out of his busy schedule to reminisce on his time at the club, including THAT debut goal against Preston North End at Deepdale in 2004.
Listen to the interview on Latics Listen episode 10 from 33:40, or read from the excerpt below! We hope you enjoy it!
Jason Roberts on his Latics debut at Preston
"It's emotional whenever I hear the commentary or watch the footage back. It was such a surreal moment because you can't imagine making your debut for a new club and scoring with your first touch.
"When you watch the goal I got to celebrate with the fans who all rushed forwards and I'm about to leave them after celebrating, but I see my uncle Otis Roberts who travelled up from London to watch the game, I saw him and I went back to the crowd to give him a hug. He was someone who taught me how to play football and he was so important to my journey as a footballer and as a person."
Jason Roberts on joining Latics
"It was the perfect moment and the perfect start at the perfect club.
"My transfer to the club was a bit prolonged. I was meant to sign earlier on in the season. I made a different decision and I went to Portsmouth which was something that I actual regret. It was the wrong move at the wrong time.
"Everyone worked to get the deal back on at Wigan and I moved in the January window. I was so keen to make a good impression.
"It was so easy with the players and the atmosphere we had at the club, it just felt right from the first moment I joined.
"It might sound a bit cliche, but sometimes you sign for a club, pull on the shirt and it just feels right.
"Paul Jewell knew exactly how to interact with me, he knew how to get the best out of me and of course it helped having Nathan Ellington at the club."
Jason Roberts on his partnership with Nathan Ellington
"It's such a protracted story. I left school as he started, I left Bristol Rovers just as he started coming through, but we always stayed in contact and he was very much a little brother to me.
"We always spoke about playing together and he was speaking to Paul Jewell at the time to tell him I'd be a good signing.
"When the chance came we were so happy for each other to do well because we'd known each other for years. We knew the game inside out, he knew my strengths, he knew that if there was space in behind the defence he could put it there for me to attack. He knew that in aerial challenges the ball would always be coming off me or a defender so he would take up these really clever positions.
"Nathan was a remarkable player. We were so in sync and the team was so in sync with what we wanted to do as well.
"I was always fortunate to play in a time when two up front was the norm. I played with Jamie Cureton as Bristol Rovers, Lee Hughes and Danny Dichio at West Brom. At Wigan I knew I had to adjust my game because with Nathan you know you had to give him the ball as much as possible because he was dangerous even from 30 yards out, not like me, I don't think I ever scored a goal from outside the box.
"We both wanted each other to score, even on penalties. We had this understanding that if I won the penalty I would take it, but if anybody else won a penalty Nathan would take it. There was one particular game when someone else won the penalty and Nathan told me to take it because I hadn't scored for a while.
"I scored the penalty and went on another run. Things like that don't normally happen between striker, but out relationship was more than team mates, we were and still are like brothers. Nathan was a remarkable team mate and he's a great man.
"I think I did a lot more of the dirty work and got involved in the physical confrontations, but Nath could handle himself as well. I think the forward partnership is only as good as the work rate you put into it. It's 4-4-2 when you have the ball and 4-5-1 when you don't have it.
"When you have wingers like Lee McCulloch coming off the left hand side and Gary Teale on the right, it was easy for us because there were always chances presenting themselves."
Jason Roberts on success and the Premier League
"As successful as we were as a duo, it was as much down to the work from the team behind us and the manager understanding that if he put us in the team together we could be dangerous against any defence.
"Me, Nathan and Jason Jarrett used to live in the same area. We'd drive in together and spend so much time together and that was the backbone of the friendship, it was almost like a family.
"It was sad to lose both of them when we got promoted, but the team for the Premier League was already there in the making in terms of the leadership in the dressing room.
"We had John Filan, Matt Jackson, Emerson Thome, Mike Pollitt, Graham Kavanagh, Alan Mahon and Lee McCulloch, and then Stephane Henchoz and Arjan De Zeeuw joined and it was just leaders all over the pitch.
"One of Paul Jewell's biggest strengths was recruited people who knew how to lead. When we went out against Chelsea on the first day and lost, we took something from it but we weren't patting ourselves on the back too much because we knew he had a big home game against Sunderland coming up.
"We went out against them and did the business. If you look through that season, we bounced back from challenges. There was a time when we played all of the top teams in a row and got nothing from those games, but after that we knew we had games that we could pick up points from and that was important in the Premier League.
"It's so difficult against top sides in the Premier League, which puts even more pressure on the games that we had to win against the likes of West Ham and Man City. That came from a collective belief, from the manager straight into the dressing room. He allowed us to motivate and police ourselves and Paul Jewell deserves a lot of credit for putting together three of four really strong teams in the time he was at the club."
Jason Roberts on his current work
"I'm currently living in Miami working for CONCACAF which is the governing body of football in Central American, North America and the Caribbean.
"I played for Grenada throughout my career and this region is very important to me. After retiring from football I did some media work, but my focus was completely on football administration. I completed a UEFA Masters in football administration and I took the job as Director of Development for CONCACAF. Under my remit we're looking at the development of coach education, coach licensing, club licensing and the women's game, as well as working with each technical director from our 41 member nations.
"It's a big job, one that I'm excited to have and I hope to be in this position for a long time."