"I haven't really shown what I'm about" - Tyler Roberts on the night he came of age at Leeds United

Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts celebrates at Elland Road against West Brom.Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts celebrates at Elland Road against West Brom.
Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts celebrates at Elland Road against West Brom.
West Bromwich Albion never gave themselves the chance to see Tyler Roberts at full tilt but it will not have surprised them to discover that the striker had a performance like Friday night’s in him.

His sale to Leeds United in January of last year, for an initial fee of £2.5m, was a transfer West Brom would rather have sidestepped but a clash of priorities and Roberts’ short contract backed Albion’s hierarchy into a corner.

West Brom were a Premier League club, giving Roberts no chance to play, and they signed Daniel Sturridge on loan from Liverpool two days before Roberts left for Elland Road.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Both players employed the same agent and it was agreed with Albion that if the arrival of Sturridge at The Hawthorns crowded Roberts out still further, Roberts would be allowed to look for first-team football elsewhere.

He was on the radar of other clubs but disappeared off it almost immediately having injured a shin without kicking a ball for Leeds last season.

The fracture ruled him out until July and intermittent appearances during Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure served little warning of the deadly playmaking which shaped Friday’s 4-0 beating of West Brom.

A 50-50 fixture became a walkover and Roberts walked off with the man-of-the-match award, the first of his career.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There have been other peaks in his time with Leeds – two goals on his second league appearance, a debut for Wales and the chance to deputise for Kemar Roofe up front earlier in the season – but he picked a meeting with the club who sold him 13 months ago to show why United and their director of football, Victor Orta, were so willing to spend a seven-figure sum on him.

Leeds were impeccable against West Brom and Bielsa declined to single any player out – “I want to underline the collective performance of everyone,” the Argentinian said – but Roberts’ influence at number 10 did not go unnoticed.

“It’s a position where I’ve never really played for a long period of time,” Roberts admitted. “But I enjoy it and the gaffer’s shown me what it’s all about, how I should play there. He’s shown me what kind of attributes I need to put into that position and it’s helped me a lot.”

Roberts played only once for West Brom, as a 17-year-old in a Premier League game in 2016, but Albion realised that they were sacrificing a player with potential when they accepted United’s offer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their then sporting director, Nick Hammond, described him as “one of our bright academy products” but Roberts’ contract was six months away from expiry and he had resisted offers of an extension.

His ability shone on Friday, against the side where he turned professional.

“It added a little bit of an incentive, of course, but I try to perform like that in every game,” Roberts said.

“Hopefully this will help me push on to become more of a big part of the team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s my first man-of-the-match award so it’s obviously a special moment. My parents and friends will be buzzing but it was just a big thing for me to come out and express myself.

“I’ve had some good performances but never really shown what I’m about by getting at players and taking players on.

“I focused on that and it came together.”

There was intense pressure on Leeds to bring a collective performance together against West Brom, three days on from a defeat at Queens Park Rangers which yielded a striking and melancholy image of Bielsa deep in thought at full-time, staring at the ground and digesting United’s 1-0 loss.

His players felt the consequences of that failure in training before West Brom’s visit, given no quarter – as has been customary this season – by their head coach, but there were no repercussions with his team selection: only the same line-up and the same bench given the chance to redeem themselves against West Brom.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was clear that they would right the defeat at Queens Park Rangers when Pablo Hernandez made Elland Road explode with a finish from 20 yards after 16 seconds.

Roberts, who had started at Loftus Road, said he understood Bielsa’s deflated body language at the end of that match.

“Of course the gaffer was upset,” he said.

“It was a poor result from us and a poor game but everyone was upset. Everyone was angry with the performance and we knew we needed to put that anger into (the West Brom game).

“It just didn’t come together at QPR but we weren’t worried about it. We knew we’d get back to being ourselves again.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The staying power of Bielsa’s squad became the focus of attention after a bad night at Loftus Road, touching on the idea that Bielsa’s managerial tenures are prone to starting win a bang and then petering out.

‘Burn-out’ was the watchword last week, a suggestion swiftly dismissed by a brutal demolition of West Brom.

“To be fair, it’s the first time I have heard of that (burn-out),” Roberts said.

“We don’t really look at the press too much because we know what we’re about.

“There’s going to be good press about us and there’s going to be bad press but as long as we stick together as a team then we can do the job and we’ll go up.”