Norwich City top 100 appearances – Iwan Roberts
Iwan Roberts (22)
306 appearances, 96 goals
Times were tough for Norwich City in the late 1990s but from the gloom of fading glory emerged a talisman who dragged the Canaries forward with all the heart and passion fans could hope for: Iwan Roberts.
It was Mike Walker who signed the Welsh centre-forward for £850,000 from Wolves ahead of the 1997-98 season, as City tried to start turning attentions towards promotion. It was a decent fee for the 29-year-old former Watford and Leicester striker – and after just seven goals in 33 games during his first season, things weren’t looking great.
However, that one notorious campaign of struggle was soon forgotten as the big man scored 23 goals the next season as he struck up an understanding with fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy. He was top scorer again for the next three seasons, capped by one of the most famous goals in City history.
Roberts came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute of the Division One play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, with the closed roof creating an intoxicating mix of atmosphere and humidity.
He rose high just over a minute into extra-time to thump an unstoppable header home from 10 yards from an Alex Notman cross to send the yellow half of the stadium into raptures.
For a few seconds he was unsure if golden goal meant he had sent Norwich to the Premiership – but unfortunately it wasn’t to be and Birmingham would claim the spoils on penalties. All of which means that wonderful goal doesn’t go down as his favourite.
“The second at Portman Road in 2000 when we beat them 2-0, that one,” Roberts says when asked to pick his top goal for City, remembering the day his brace beat Ipswich 2-0 at Portman Road.
“People say about the one at the Millennium Stadium but we lost that one. For a split second it was the most important goal I’d ever scored but when you lose on penalties...
“The second one at Portman Road though, that was a bit special, I enjoyed that one.”
As the legs slowed, he played the role of senior pro as Darren Huckerby inspired Worthington’s squad to the Division One title in 2004. Roberts contributed eight goals to that joyous campaign but wasn’t taken along for the Premiership ride, as he closed on his 36th birthday.
He still lives in Norwich though and continues to write a weekly column for this newspaper during the season, also working for BBC Radio Wales, covering his nation’s glorious run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France last summer.
“I love it,” Roberts said of his media career. “A lot of professionals go down the coaching route or the media route and if I’m totally honest I wasn’t really fussed about coaching and doing all the badges.
“Then I got an opportunity with BBC Radio Wales 11 years ago, I’m a fluent Welsh in the Welsh language so there was a little opportunity there for me and in that past 11 years I’ve been here, there and everywhere – back to Cardiff, back to Swansea.
“I do a lot of mileage because I’ve chosen to settle in Norwich because I love living in the city but I thoroughly enjoy the work I do. People think you just turn up to the game but there’s a lot of homework, a lot of prep work because you always have to know your facts and stats!”
That famous gap-toothed grin has rarely been seen since retirement but Roberts had still been playing up until a couple of years ago, with Huckerby and a few other senior pros for Cringleford Vets, but he has now officially retired.
“I really enjoy running now, I like keeping myself fit and if I play on the astroturf I can’t move for a week!” Roberts added. “The knees are sore, the ankles are sore and it takes me seven days to recover so I’ve knocked that on the head. The boots are away in the garage and they’re not coming out again! I’m 49 this month so I think it’s time to call it a day.
“I did the Norwich Half Marathon five years ago and I did that in an hour and 31 minutes, so I was really pleased with that time, and I did the London Marathon about two years ago and did that in three hours, 52 minutes – and I’m never going near a marathon ever again!
“I’m doing the Norwich 10K in August, the missus wants to do a 10K so I said I’ll do it with her. That’s all around the city so I’m looking forward to that.”
Norwich City’s top scorers in the second tier
1 Iwan Roberts - 84
2 Terry Allock – 68
3 Ron Davies – 58
4 Ken Foggo – 54
5 Jack Vinall - 51
6 Tommy Bryceland – 49
7 Hugh Curran – 46
8 Frank Manders – 40
9 Peter Silvester – 37
10 Cameron Jerome – 36