Iwan Roberts: Jet-setting Canaries have never had it so good!

23-05-00 Wales v Brazil ©Huw Evans, Cardiff.
Wales Iwan Roberts outjumps Emerson

Iwan Roberts on international duty for Wales, against Brazil, in 2000 - Credit: Huw Evans

I bet these last couple of weeks have been frustrating ones for Daniel Farke, with a good number of his first team squad away on international duty.

Having picked up their first points of the season two weeks ago up at Burnley, the last thing he would have wanted was limited numbers for him to work with up at Colney, and limited time to get his team ready for another huge challenge on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, they’ve all returned from their travels champing at the bit and fully fit to get at Graham Potter’s Brighton side. 

I loved going away with Wales, even though at times I knew that I’d be very lucky to get any playing time. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I might not even make the match day squad - mind you, when your competing with the likes of Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Dean Saunders there’s no disgrace in that. 

Iwan Roberts gives the thumbs up as he boards the plane for Cardiff at Norwich international airport

Iwan Roberts gives the thumbs up as he boards a plane for Cardiff at Norwich international airport - Credit: Archant

At the beginning of my international career we’d only be away for three or four days, so it wasn’t too bad,. We’d meet up on the Sunday night in our hotel in Newport - Celtic Manor. It's not the monstrosity that's the Celtic Manor these days, where we stayed for the play-off final in 2002. it was a much smaller hotel 30 years ago, about 10 yards from the M4 so not ideal for your beauty sleep. 

All the lads would get there early on the Sunday and we’d all go out as a squad for a few drinks. We had a really close squad and it's fair to say there were no bad apples in it. These short international breaks were much different to what they have now; if you weren’t involved then you’d hardly do any training, there would be a lot of standing about if you weren’t in the starting XI.

We’d basically have one session on the Monday morning, one session on the Tuesday morning and Wednesday of course was game day. Then I’d travel home first thing Thursday morning, having put about a stone on in weight with the lack of training. 

Later on I’m my career, when we were away for 10 days or more when we started to play the double headers, I’d do so much training by myself after the main session had finished, there’s no way on this planet I could have three meals a day with very little training so every day I’d always spend a couple of hours in the hotel gym and do my cardio work if I knew I wouldn’t be starting. 

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I've seen photos of some of the boys over the last couple of international breaks getting private jets back to Norwich - it goes to show how times have changed over the years. They don’t know how lucky they are not having to share a flight with a load of fans who’ve enjoyed the local hospitality far more than they should have done, who haven’t a problem after a few drinks in telling you how badly the team played with you, in particular, being the worst of the lot. 

Mind you, I did once return to Norwich airport on a private jet, courtesy of Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, as they came to watch a Wales game at Ninian Park in the late 90s. Myself, Craig Bellamy and Chris Llewelyn were all in the squad so it's not as if they’d just come to watch me play. In fact, only Craig played that night in a game against Norway, if my memory serves me right. 

The three of us were so thankful to Michael and Delia as we drove to Cardiff airport - what a difference it was going to be flying back to Norwich, a flight that would only take us 45 minutes. I wouldn’t even have been over the Severn bridge in that time if I'd been driving back! We were so well looked after - we had food and soft drinks on the plane ... better than stopping at any motorway services!