Why Iwan can't look Walker in the eye
PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:35 10 September 2010
Iwan Roberts has paid tribute to the man who helped him become a Norwich City legend - but admitted he still struggles to look Mike Walker square in the face. Walker paid £1m to bring Roberts from Wolves in the summer of 1997, but it didn't take long for the dream move to become a nightmare.
Iwan Roberts has paid tribute to the man who helped him become a Norwich City legend - but admitted he still struggles to look Mike Walker square in the face,
Walker paid £1m to bring Roberts from Wolves in the summer of 1997, but it didn't take long for the dream move to become a nightmare.
Roberts struggled to seven goals in his first season, and both manager and player felt the brunt of the fans' frustrations - and before the season was out, Walker had gone, his failure to find a way back to the Premiership costing him his job.
Roberts' touch soon returned and by the time he finally left Carrow Road, in 2004, he had scored 96 goals in 306 appearances, making him the club's third leading scorer of all time.
Those figures granted him legendary status, which was rubber-stamped on Sunday when, along with Chris Sutton, he was voted into the club's Greatest Ever line-up - with Walker chosen to manage the august band of men.
Both men were at Carrow Road to receive the cheers of the crowd, but Roberts admitted he owed it to Walker.
"As daft as it sounds I can't look him in the eye sometimes," said Roberts. "He signed me for the club and I had a nightmare that first year. He put a lot of faith in me, paid a lot of money for me and took a lot of stick for signing me, and finally when things started clicking he wasn't the manager any more.
"But I think he is as delighted as I am for the award because I think it proves everything that he thought.
"I had a nightmare - but I have to thank Mike for bringing me here. It is the best place I've played, it's the best place that I have lived and I wish that I could come back, I really do, because it's as near to home as I would ever call, apart from where I was brought up with my mum and dad.
"I don't get back that often because of work commitments, but I love coming back. There is not a better place to come back than Norwich, you get such a warm welcome off the people."
Roberts and Sutton beat off some stiff competition.
"What an honour - even if I hadn't won it would have been a great day," he said. "It's a great honour to be associated with some of the names that were up there - Terry Allcock, Robert Fleck, Chris Sutton, some very, very good players and I am delighted I have won it, I really, really am."
Included in the Greatest Event line-up was only one contemporary from the Class of 2004 which swept City into the Premiership - Darren Huckerby, whose controversial departure from Carrow Road this summer after four and a half years has done nothing to dim his standing among the City faithful.
It was a partnership which always has Roberts wondering what might have been, had Huckerby not arrived just that little bit earlier.
"One regret that I always had after I left is not getting 100 goals for the club and I just think if Hucks had come the season before I would have had about 120, 130," he said.
"Obviously I feel he is now in the same position that I was four years ago, but I think he's in a better position than me - I think his phone would have been red hot over the last couple of weeks."
The weekend event became something of a farewell to Huckerby after manager Glenn Roeder dispensed with his services - a decision revealed after the season had already ended.
"He rang me 20 minutes after he had heard the news and I knew what he was going through and I think he has taken it really well," Roberts added. "I have known Glenn for many years, I played with him at Watford, and I do think he has made a big mistake.
"Darren's 32, he has at least two years - he hasn't lost any pace. Darren's game is all about pace and once he loses that he would probably say himself it would be time for him to think, 'what do I do now?'
"But he has still got that pace and he can still effect games and while he does that I think he has a place in many sides - Championship clubs will be queuing up to sign him.
"I think any club in the Championship would take him, and a few in the Premiership as well, because when you have pace like he has you can't buy that. I always said one man doesn't make a team but he near as damn made our team that year we won promotion."
Now Roberts is hoping to pull on his boots and play at Carrow Road again - in a benefit match for Huckerby.
Roberts believes Huckerby should be allowed one final appearance at the ground he called home - with all proceeds going to local charities.
And, three years after his final competitive game and fast approaching his 40th birthday, Roberts is ready to go back on his word never to don a pair of football boots in anger again.
"I was having a chat with Darren about it and I think it would be a great idea.
"Give the money to charity, a charity of Darren's choice, and I don't think people would have any qualms about paying.
"Don't charge ridiculous prices, be sensible about it, and I think people would turn up in their thousands to thank Darren for what he did in the last five years."