Date: Wed 13 Mar 2019

C squad has raised everybody’s game, says Newtown’s Callum Roberts

We caught up with one of Newtown AFC’s standout young players, Callum Roberts, as the left-back earned C International call-up for next week’s fixture against England C at Salford City.

The 20-year-old Roberts has been one of the standout players in the league this season and he discussed what the call-up to Mark Jones’ squad means to him.

“We had been talking about the C squad at Newtown a few weeks ago, funnily enough, and I was optimistic that I’d done my best to give myself a chance, but I didn’t necessarily think I was going to get in to the squad.

“Chris Hugh is a very good left-back, Nathan Craig has done very well this year, and there are a lot of good left-backs in the league too – I think it is an area where there are a lot of strong players in this league – but I was optimistic, I thought I had a chance, but obviously when you get the confirmation it was a really, really proud moment for me and my family.

“It was a target at the start of the season, definitely, and I’m really glad that I’ve been able to achieve it.

“I definitely think the C squad has raised everybody’s game in the league, 100%, because when there are international call-ups on the line everybody is right at it and keen to impress.”

’It has been a year full of highlights so far, really, for myself and for Newtown.’

2018/19 couldn’t have gone much better for the young left-back, nor for his club Newtown AFC either to be honest, as Roberts has built quite the reputation for himself as one of the league’s premier left-backs.

Newtown, too, have had a sterling term, sitting in fourth at present with their sights set on hunting Barry down in third spot before the end of the season, and the left-back looked back on his time in the JDWPL so far.

“It has been a year full of highlights so far, really, for myself and for Newtown I think. I was quite confident before the start of the season that this year could be a good one for the club, because we recruited really well and although I wasn’t sure we’d do this well, I had a really good feeling going into it.

“I really enjoyed my first time on loan in the JD Welsh Premier League with TNS, I was really impressed with the standard of the league, and when Newtown came calling in January 2018 it was an opportunity I was eager to take and once I signed I felt at home straight away here.

“This season I think we’ve pushed on to a different level, I think. Some people might look at the table and think we’re a bit too far away from Barry to trouble the top three, but let’s see how it goes in the last few games of the season.”

’Going under the radar has helped us this year.’

In a season full of fabulous stories throughout your JDWPL, with Caernarfon flying in their first season back at this level, a three-team title race at the top of the standings, and many other teams securing significant feats throughout the term, Newtown have just gone about their business excellently and away from the spotlight.

Roberts feels that perhaps this lack of media attention has helped the Robins do so well.

“I think we’ve gone under the radar this year, definitely, but I can understand why because with the likes of Barry doing so well and fighting at the top of the table as well the eyes have probably been more on them and other teams than us, but I think we are two very similar teams and I look at them and think there’s no reason we can’t do the same as them next year.

“The way Barry play, the way they work hard for each other, we see ourselves as very similar, but I’m quite glad that we have gone under the radar this season really because there has been no pressure on us as a result.

“After we got into the top six we set ourselves a target of being in the top three teams in Phase Two and at the minute we’re on course to do that and we’ll see where it takes us.”

’It shows what opportunities the JDWPL gives players.’

The 20-year-old Welshman is one of a number of young players who has benefitted from a sustained run in the JDWPL in recent times, with the likes of Modou Touray, Macauley Southam-Hales, Ben Cabango and others shining this year as well and benefitting massively.

An example Roberts points to is a close friend who also appears to have benefitted from his time in Wales’ premier division, and he argues that this shows what opportunities the JDWPL offers youngsters.

“I think the biggest example for me is Ryan Sears, we’re good friends and I know him well from our time at Shrewsbury – he’s just had a call-up for Wales Under-21s so that’s got to be the aim for me as well, really.

“Seeing Ryan doing that gives me a lot of belief, and it shows what opportunities the JD Welsh Premier League gives players as well, because there are others this year too who have had similar success.

“Macauley has secured a great move to Fleetwood too, whenever I played against him I thought it was always a really good battle, but the likes of Shane Sutton, Jason Oswell too, they’ve gone on to play at a good level and have success after moving on too, so it is very encouraging.”

’I hope I’ve repaid some of the faith that’s been shown in me.’

It has been just over a year since Roberts joined Newtown – initially on loan before making his move permanent in the summer – and he spoke of why he decided to make Latham Park his permanent home, and how he hopes to have repaid the club’s faith in him.

“The manager has been absolutely brilliant for me and shown a lot of faith in me. In the summer after I left Shrewsbury there was no other club that showed me they wanted me as much as Chris did, and that’s massive in football, to feel that wanted, it helps you play at the top of your game.

“Callum McKenzie and Gavin Cadwallader were huge for me too, I had a long phone-call with Gavin at the start of the year and he gave me some really good advice.

“Having spoken to a few people that had been in a similar situation to me previously I just felt that going to Newtown this year was the right decision for me and it is one I’m really glad I made because it has gone very well for us this year and I hope I’ve repaid some of the faith that’s been shown in me.”

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