Iwan Roberts: Fixtures release day just as exciting for players

PUBLISHED: 16:57 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:57 13 June 2019

Iwan Roberts in action on a tough opening day at Millwall in 2001 Picture: Archant

Iwan Roberts in action on a tough opening day at Millwall in 2001 Picture: Archant

Players are no different to supporters when the fixtures for the upcoming season are announced in the middle of June - it's something that we looked forward to with excitement for weeks, especially having won promotion to the Premier League.

Mark Rivers celebrates his goal at Bradford - Iwan Roberts was fishing! Picture: ArchantMark Rivers celebrates his goal at Bradford - Iwan Roberts was fishing! Picture: Archant

I could not wait to see who we were up against on the opening day and if I'm honest it didn't really make much difference to me if we were home or away.

Next I'd look at where we were playing over the busy festive period, whether we had a home game on Boxing Day or not, hoping that we did as I could enjoy Christmas Day without having to leave the kids late afternoon to travel to the game on Boxing Day.

There were two games we all (players and supporters) used to look for as soon as the fixtures were announced and that was Ipswich Town home and away - sadly I don't think that fixture's going to happen any time soon!

I'd check to see if we had a game on September 24 as that's my twin daughters' birthday - luckily my son Ben's birthday is in July so that was never a problem.

Last, but definitely not least, I'd was keen on finding out where our last game was and hope it would be at home.

I don't know why but I much preferred playing our last game at Carrow Road rather than having to travel away for our final fixture.

I am a Liverpool fan so that was always one of the first games I used to look out for - and City won't have to wait long for that one!

My very first game for Norwich, at the beginning of the 1997-98 season was a complete disaster, probably the worst debut for any of my six clubs - an easily forgettable game for me. It was a red-hot day and we were playing against Wolves, the club I'd just left to join Norwich. I never had a kick and we lost 2-0.

I remember after about 15 minutes of the first half after I'd made a run down our left-hand side in front of the City Stand, one voice bellowing out "come on, Roberts, do something". I thought there and then, 'it's going to be a long season'... how right I was!

On the opening day of the 2001-02 season we travelled down to The New Den and we were full of hope and confidence. We'd had a great pre-season and saw this game against Millwall as an ideal opportunity to get off to a winning start in our opening game.

Once again it was a red-hot day and we got slapped 4-0. It was a proper wake-up call for us all and bought us right back down to earth with a big bump. Nigel Worthington ripped into us after the game, and rightly so. We'd let ourselves be bullied by Millwall. Mind you, he was delighted with our reaction after that humiliation as we went on to win five out of our next six games and suddenly found ourselves in the top two.

The strangest opening day of the season for me in my seven years at Norwich came in my last year with the club, in the 2003-04 season. I'd done all the hard slog of a tough six-week pre-season only to tweak a calf muscle on the eve of the season, which would keep me out of our opening fixture away to Bradford.

I was desperate to travel up with the lads, but Nigel told me to stay behind so I could have round-the-clock treatment on my injury, which made complete sense, so I spent most of that weekend in the treatment room up at Colney.

However, I did get away for a few hours on the Saturday afternoon and I took my son Ben to my friend's fishing lakes near Swanton Morley where we fished all afternoon while listening to the commentary of the game on BBC Radio Norfolk.

We didn't get much luck with the fish - I think we must have scared them away with our celebrations when Mark Rivers and Clint Easton put us in control of the game with two goals either side of half-time. However, two goals in the last six minutes from Bradford meant we came away with only a point. I left the fishing lakes telling myself that I never ever wanted to miss the opening game of the season again - mind you, I only had one after that as I retired from playing in 2005.

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