FEATURE: Getting to know... Cobblers' academy graduate Morgan Roberts
Morgan Roberts admits the past year has been a bit of a whirlwind.
Last summer, a 16-year-old Roberts was gearing up for his first year as a scholar at the Cobblers. He was an under-17 player stepping into an environment where under-18s ruled the roost.
Last week, less than a year later and with a senior debut for the club under his belt, the 17-year-old Morgan Roberts was putting pen to paper on a three-year professional contract at Sixfields.
When he reports for pre-season training in June it will be as a fully-fledged member of the Town first team squad.
It has been a dramatic rise for the former Kingsthorpe Grove pupil, who started out playing for Soccer Stars in the Northampton & District Youth League.
He obviously caught the eye, as by the age of nine he was snapped up by the Cobblers centre of excellence, and he has been with the club ever since.
Roberts faced the media after signing his contract last week, and said: “I am delighted, and I want to say thanks to Jon Brady (U18s boss) and Trevor Gould (Academy boss) for believing in me, and obviously Dean (Austin) for having the confidence in me.
“I have been playing football for as long as I can remember, and have been here at Northampton for nearly 10 years now. Football has been my life.”
If it is possible, football is now set to overtake young Roberts’ life even more.
A slight physical presence, there is a quiet confidence and inner strength about Roberts, and he is a player that impressed Cobblers manager Dean Austin the first time he set eyes on him.
He has now given Roberts the chance to take his first steps as a pro, and the teenager is ready for the promotion.
He has been training regularly with the first team since the turn of the year, and although the former Northampton School for Boys pupil admitted that was daunting at first, he was soon made to feel comfortable.
“It was only 12 months ago that I was really nervous playing for the under-18s,” said Roberts, whose dad, Gareth, was once on the books at Leyton Orient, and enjoyed a strong non-League career.
“So as a 17-year-old, playing with professional footballers, it was unreal, but training with the first team most days, I think that gave me confidence. That meant I did feel better when I went on the pitch, knowing that I can play with them.”
Ah yes, that first-team debut... with just a couple of minutes remaining of the Cobblers’ final game of the season against Oldham, Roberts replaced another academy product, Shaun McWilliams.
He had also been an unused substitute in Austin’s first game in caretaker charge, at Blackpool, and Roberts said: “Being on the bench for the first time was unreal.
“From sitting in the stands at Sixfields most weeks watching down, it was really weird to be on watching from the bench, but it was great.”
And getting on the hallowed turf with 6,500 people watching on?
“It was weird at the start when I was standing there, and it didn’t really feel like I was in a football match, it was just people around me,” said Roberts. “But the fans when I came on gave me a massive reception, and that gave me a bit of confidence.
“After being at the club since I was nine, it’s always been my ambition to play for the first team, and to come on, even for two minutes, was a dream come true.”
Roberts barely touched the ball, but he did get involved in a couple of physical altercations, and he didn’t back down!
“The way I play is that I like to get stuck in, I like to work hard off the ball,” he said.
“I might need to get a bit bigger, but I am not shy in tackling or anything, so I don’t think that will stop me playing against men.”
So aside from the work ethic, what else should the Cobblers supporters know about Roberts?
“I am an attacking midfielder, and I like to think I have got quite a good left foot,” he said.
“So playing down the left so I can get a good cross in, or even down the right where I can cut in, but I like to create goalscoring opportunities for myself and other people.
“I have taken on lots of advice while I have been training with the first team, and I am feeling more comfortable and confident with them now.
“I feel I can have a laugh and I think that helps me in my game, knowing I can express myself a bit more.”
Morgan is the second member of the Roberts family to earn a professional contract at the Cobblers, with his older brother Connor also being taken on by Aidy Boothroyd in the summer of 2013.
He unfortunately failed to make a first-team appearance, but Morgan says his big brother, now 21, still has his footballing dreams of his own.
He played for Frome Town last season, and recently had a trial match with Milton Keynes Dons, and Roberts Jnr said: “Connor came through the academy and got a pro contract, and then he went off to play non-League.
“He is at university now and still playing at a good level. He had a trial recently and I think he still wants to get back in once his Uni work is done.”
So how about the Roberts boys playing in the same team together in the future?
“He is a good footballer and I hope he gets back in,” said Morgan.
“Maybe he can be playing in the same team as me one day, you never know!”