Leeds United attacker Tyler Roberts' 'frightening movement' and natural ability shone as teen at Shrewsbury

Tyler Roberts celebrating his goal for Shrewsbury against Chesterfield (Pic: Andrew Roe/AHPix)Tyler Roberts celebrating his goal for Shrewsbury against Chesterfield (Pic: Andrew Roe/AHPix)
Tyler Roberts celebrating his goal for Shrewsbury against Chesterfield (Pic: Andrew Roe/AHPix)
Tyler Roberts’ ‘frightening movement’ and an ability to spot defensive weakness are natural abilities that were already on display at the age of 18.

Roberts had already played a Premier League game, as a 17-year-old West Brom substitute against Liverpool, and got a taste of League One in a less-than-fruitful loan spell at Oxford United, before Shrewsbury Town borrowed the Baggies teenager for the latter half of the 2016/17 season.

Louis Dodds, a far more experienced lower-league forward who had joined the Shrews the previous summer, was immediately struck by Roberts’ ability.

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“I think I saw him in training for a couple of days before his first bit of action,” said Dodds.

“You could see he was a young lad with great potential. His movement was frightening for one so young.”

Being able to spot and dart into space, at that age, at a highly competitive, physical level of men’s football was largely down to what comes naturally for Roberts, in Dodds’ eyes.

Roberts registered neither a goal nor assist in his first two starts for the Shrews, but soon began to find his feet and the net.

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His first goal, against Bury, a sidefoot finish reminiscent of the goal he scored at Elland Road against QPR this season, was followed in his next outing by his first assist and a first glimpse of a partnership with Freddie Ladapo, who was then on loan from Crystal Palace.

Roberts scored again against AFC Wimbledon then grabbed another against Charlton Athletic in a game that also saw him set up Dodds for the opener. By the time Roberts showed his knack for being in the right place at the right time to knock home a rebound from a Ladapo shot at Chesterfield, his natural ability had made him a huge hit with Shrewsbury fans.

“He had a good upbringing as a YT and did well at international level in the youth teams but some of it is instinct,” said Dodds.

“Lots of people go on about having a striker’s instinct.

“You can tell someone where to be in the box, how to move but unless it’s something that comes naturally I don’t think you can really teach that.

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“He was naturally good at reading where the opponents were weak, if the two centre-halves split he knew he could stay in the middle, if a full-back had gone out, he might slip into the space that was left.

“He was very wise and experienced, for someone who was the opposite.”

Roberts has proved to be more than just an out-and-out striker at Leeds United, assuming a playmaker role at times under Marcelo Bielsa, something he did well as an 18-year-old too,

despite the complexities of the position.

“He was playing up front because he had a bit of pace, you could see when he dropped into the number 10 position that he flourished,” said Dodds.

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“Some players take time to get to know that position but he looked like he had been playing there for 10 years.

“He’s someone who enjoys the ball at his feet.”

And the Shrewsbury dressing room enjoyed having Roberts around, not just because his contribution helped them avoid relegation by two points. It is not always the case that loanees from clubs higher up the pyramid integrate fully with their new lower-league team-mates. Roberts did, however.

“He was a good lad, always came in with a smile on his face,” said Dodds.

“He struck up a really good bond with Ladapo, they were quite tight, but he would come in and speak to everyone, he worked hard and I don’t think he put a foot out of place.

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“I think you need to get on with everyone, not thinking you’re this or that because you’re on a decent wage, not thinking you’re doing the club a favour because they’re helping you out. It’s your first rung on the ladder.

“He was very young when he came to Shrewsbury but you’ve got to be able to talk to anyone.

“Some players I’ve played with, who came in on loan, didn’t have that and didn’t end up going anywhere, word gets around that he’s not good in the dressing room.

“He came in, was a good lad, a breath of fresh air given some of the lads we did bring in didn’t click.”

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Roberts didn’t play the final five games of that season through a muscle injury, something Leeds and 21-year-old Roberts have also had to frequently deal with, but Dodds is delighted with the trajectory of the youngster’s career ever since.

“Some lads’ careers are over before they get started but you can tell when someone wants to learn and do their best for everyone.

“It’s nice to see them progress because some stagnate and go back to their club and don’t go further than the 21s, which is a shame.

“He needed to go higher and it looks like he’s flourishing.

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