Defender Rhiannon Roberts has established herself as a key member of Jayne Ludlow's Cymru team, and having scored her first international goal in the 6-0 win over the Faroe Islands, the aim now is to make this UEFA Women's EURO 2021 qualifying campaign even more memorable.
Belarus v Cymru
UEFA Women's EURO 2021 Qualifying Round
- 17:00 Tuesday 8 October
- Borisov Arena, Barysaw
“I celebrated our sixth goal like it was our first!” explained Roberts to FAW.cymru, reflecting on her moment of glory in the August win that opened the current qualifying campaign. “I enjoyed that one! It was a good chance for me to get up the field for set pieces, as we didn't really have that many corners in the last campaign. I said before the game that I was going to score! Hopefully there's a few more to come.”
A frustrating 2-2 draw against Northern Ireland at Rodney Parade last month may have distorted the general opinion of the undefeated start having surrendered the lead in the final moments, and the side now head to Belarus looking to make amends. “Everyone was disappointed as it felt like a loss,” Roberts explained. “But it wasn't, we still took a point, and that's what we need to look at. We've just got to take what positives we can from it now into the next game.
“I think it was more about the team as a collective, we just didn't seem to be on it that night. We just seemed flat at times, and that's not like us. Having so many fans at Rodney Parade really does drive us on, and that was one of the things that really disappointed us. We need to keep those fans there for the rest of the campaign. They want to see good performances and they want to see us get results.”
Absolutely gutted to have dropped points last night! We have high expectations as a group and we fell short! However, there’s plenty of football yet to be played! We go again!! pic.twitter.com/t72p0QQq4h— Rhiannon Roberts (@RazzaRoberts) 4 September 2019
Having narrowly missed out on qualifying for the finals of FIFA Women's World Cup in the summer, a high standard has been set, and Roberts believes the side can grow with it. “Because the expectations are so much higher you get that extra pressure,” she added. “Our team isn't all full-time, so that's got to be taken into consideration as well. The pressure is definitely on us and it's a situation we haven't really been in before, we've always been the underdogs. There's a different mindset now, and we put extra pressure on ourselves. But we've got to deal with that, and compete.”
Although she was called into the England U23 squad back in 2010, there was only ever one shirt for Roberts. “I always wanted to play for Wales,” she explained “It wasn't a decision, I just hadn't had the call. When I was growing up and playing at Blackburn Rovers there were no Welsh scouts out there. I thought I must not be good enough or I would have been picked, but England had scouts. My brother actually said to me – 'You've got to put your name out there, you've got to let them know that you're Welsh!' - I said 'No, people don't do that, I've got a Welsh name!'. It's nice to see that the system has changed.
It was Jayne Ludlow who finally introduced her into the Welsh system back in 2015 to earn the first of her 26 caps, and Roberts was keen to highlight the impact the manager has had on her career. “Jayne's one of the best coaches that I have played under,” she explained. “I learnt so much as soon as I came into the system. But it's also her belief in her players, her drive and passion for us to do well, and working to player's strengths. That's how we did so well in the last campaign, believing in ourselves, and having that togetherness as a group.”
But while Roberts focuses on her own professional career, she also has a keen eye on the next generation, and the next step in her own footballing journey. “I recently did my 'B' Licence through the FAW. I always had really good coaching when I was a youngster at Burnley, and I think youngsters need good coaching to start with for them to progress. I really want to give something back because if I hadn't had decent coaching to start with, I probably wouldn't be where I am now. I coach the North Regional Girls squad on a Friday night with Nic Anderson, and I would quite like to go into coaching now that I've had a taste for it.
“I love the opportunities that are there now for the younger ones coming through. When I was growing up I couldn't play full-time before the Women's Super League (WSL) came in, and I was always a big believer in putting my education first, doing my degree and teaching. Then all of a sudden, you get this opportunity to play football full-time, and you can't turn it down because it's such a short career. You can do anything you want after football, and I've got my education to fall back on, which is great. I think I've done it the right way. I really can't ask for any more, if people ask me what's my perfect job, I tell them I'm doing it.”
Good first day with this lovely bunch! International time!pic.twitter.com/eqkrv81QIE— Rhiannon Roberts (@RazzaRoberts) 30 September 2019
Roberts turned 29 during the summer, and more than appreciates where her football journey has taken her as she represents Liverpool in the Barclays WSL. “I love it at Liverpool,” she added. “It's not too far from where I live, so it's nice to have the football side and then just have a normal life when I go home at the end of the day. When I was Doncaster Belles, us as players lived together, had tea together, trained together - it was very intense. Now I have that balance. The training at Liverpool is great, the facilities are great, the girls and the staff are great, so I'm really happy there at the moment.”
But while club football brings it's own rewards, the passion of representing her country brings an even wider smile to Roberts' face. “It's not just representing your country, it's representing your country with this bunch of girls,” she explained. “When we come down to camp, everyone is so ready to see each other again, even though we meet up every month or two. The girls have been together for a long time now, and we've got a solid squad. We work so hard for each other. I love coming on camp, I pack my bags about a week before!”