Gary Roberts is delighted to be back ‘where it all began’ at Accrington Stanley.
The Reds snapped up a then young Roberts from Welshpool in 2005, after his release from Liverpool’s Academy as a teenager, and he scored 23 goals in 64 appearances and helped Stanley clinch the Conference title in 2006.
He moved onto Ipswich Town in 2007, for a then record fee, and then has been promoted with Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan before he left the Latics in September.
The 36-year-old has been playing in the Welsh League with Bala Town but an offer from John Coleman to return to the Wham Stadium 14 years after he first arrived was too good to turn down.
“I am made up to be back, to see a few old faces, it’s been a long time but I am happy to be here.
“Your career goes quickly, coming back to see the gaffer and Jimmy (Bell) and the office staff, it feels like I have never been away but 14 years is a long time.
“Being here was of the best times in my career, we were tipped to do down that year, we had a small squad and we went to Scotland pre-season and didn’t look great and the next thing you know we were champions by a big margin.
“It was one of the best times which you never forget in your career and it set me on my way to the career I have had.”
He has great memories of the 2005/6 season where he scored 18 goals as the Reds clinched promotion to the Football League after a 44-year absence.
“I remember Grays away, it was my first game live on Sky and I have never been so nervous going into a game and it was a massive game at the time which we won.
“There was so many from that year, we went on an incredible run, the bus journeys on the way home with Eric (Whalley), who is sadly not with us anymore, there were so many good times.
“We were young, everything was brand new and to be a professional at the time was an amazing time in my career.
“It all started at Accrington where I got given my chance by the gaffer and took it.
“You have to work on it, especially when you come through non league, you have to work hard and I have made a half decent career out of it and I am back where it started.”
He is now looking forward, hoping to add quality and experience to the side.
“I am not as quick as I was the first time around and not as cheeky maybe!
“I still love the game as much as I did when I walked through the door here and looking at it now, the club has changed an awful lot, the facilities and everything, and you can see them flying high.
“I have trained today and it’s a good set of lads, good players, and hopefully we can push on to the top end of the league which is unbelievable for this club.
“I like to think I have still got quality, you don’t lose that, and I can bring some experience. They have a lot of games between now and the end of season, 31 I think, and I want to help the lads as much as I can and get some goals and assists.”
He admitted it is unusual walking into the stadium and not seeing Ian Craney!
“He was the first call I got this morning, we had a reminisce and I have met so many good people here who I have kept in contact with throughout my career. It is such a special club.”
And he remembers his song from the Accrington faithful.
“It would be nice to hear it again. Just seeing the fans would be lovely, it’s a totally different game without fans, it’s not the same feeling and it will be great to see them again one more time.”