Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts sends perfectly-timed message to Wales boss but needs second chance for Euros
Tyler Roberts got a second chance on Tuesday night and took it brilliantly, in a perfectly-timed message for Wales boss Rob Page.
In truth the goal should just be the exclamation mark on Roberts’ application for a place in Page’s squad for the European Championships.
If the caretaker manager, taking charge in the absence of on-bail Ryan Giggs, was still in two minds about taking Leeds United’s forward to the tournament by Tuesday night, then it might not bode well for Roberts.
Given his recent Premier League game time and the faith Marcelo Bielsa continues to show in his ability, the 22-year-old can have every reason for optimism in the anxious last few days before Sunday’s squad announcement.
Page was present at Elland Road for the recent visit of Tottenham Hotspur, arriving as Gareth Southgate’s guest to take in a top-flight battle featuring two of his attackers.
On that day only one Welshman had any real impact in the game, playing a part in one of the goals. The other was Gareth Bale.
Page’s most talented and decorated star was largely anonymous against the Whites, while Roberts could be quietly pleased about what he produced in front of the national team boss, linking the play well a couple of times and, with Leeds a goal down, finding Jack Harrison who fed Gjanni Alioski for the cross that was tucked in by Patrick Bamford.
It will not have gone unnoticed by Page that, after giving Harrison the ball, Roberts drifted into the box, stayed unmarked and took up a great position.
As it happens, he was free in the area when Harrison’s cross went all the way through and resulted in a Stuart Dallas goal.
Against Burnley, when Harrison slotted that perfect pass through the Burnley defence for Rodrigo to score, Roberts made a run into acres of space in a central area and would have been another great option for the winger.
And then at St Mary’s, again off the bench and with Southampton caught upfield chasing the game, he was played in by a brilliant ball from Raphinha that gave him time and space to go and beat Alex McCarthy.
He squandered the first chance, taking a touch too many and being dispossessed by Stuart Armstrong, but the arriving Bamford shot at goal, McCarthy saved and Roberts tucked in the rebound with a lovely, low finish, rolled into the corner of the net.
Roberts, who often favours that aesthetically pleasing sidefoot shot along the ground, celebrated like a man who knew this moment was long overdue. He should be finishing the season with more than the one Premier League goal to his name but, for all his misfortunes with VAR and world-class goalkeepers, at least he can say he was in the right place at the right time to score more.
There have been questions over his decision making in recent games, when team-mates were well placed for a pass and his sole focus was attempting to score, but his movement, mobility, instinct of where he needs to be and his workrate – there’s definitely more bite in his defending this season – added to his new-found experience of Premier League football, should be enough for one of the 26 places in Page’s squad.
The only issue is that he requires a second chance.
Page bombed him out of the last squad early for breaking a hotel curfew, an incident the no-nonsense former defender looked upon dimly but, if he’s good to his word that the matter was considered closed once disciplinary action was taken, Roberts should be celebrating on Sunday regardless of how the game against West Brom goes.
What he will know more than anyone is that this second chance has to be taken too.