by Tom Pritchard
DESPITE disappointing loan spells with Middlesbrough and Bristol Rovers, Connor Roberts is now a key figure for Swansea City and Wales, who play Denmark in the Nations League this Friday.
The 23-year-old struggled with self-doubt as a result of his failure to make an impact away from his home club.
The remarkable turn-around in his career has ensured that the difficult times are behind him, but he has not forgotten them.
“There were some very dark days, I questioned whether I was good enough to play in the Championship,” he said of his time at Boro.
In the 2016 season, the Neath-born defender went on loan to League One side Bristol Rovers, making only a handful of appearances.
“Before that, a lot of people don’t know, I was at Bristol Rovers; didn’t get a game, didn’t get a look in. I questioned whether I was good enough, if I would have a career in League Two, just plodding along.”
The lack of game time led to a lot of self-doubt, as Roberts explained: “I was at Bristol, at Middlesborough and things weren’t going well.
“I used to go home from training, lie on my bed and think what’s going on here?”
However, when he returned to his boyhood club, Roberts was given the opportunity to feature under then manager Carlos Carvalhal.
The Swans Academy product made his first team debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Third Round of the 2017/18 FA Cup.
“Obviously since then things have changed, for club and for country. It’s brilliant.
“From my point of view, and from my friends, family and people who know me know that I worked so hard in my early days to be where I am today.”
Roberts is now an ever-present in Graham Potter’s team, and has been gaining invaluable experience at international level under Wales boss Ryan Giggs.
“There’s been a lot of turnaround, not just in my life but at Swansea, at Wales as well. There’s been a lot of transitions all over my life.”
Roberts, who played 45 games on loan at Yeovil in 2015/16, is expected to feature in Wales’ crunch game with Denmark in the UEFA Nations League this Friday.
Looking ahead to the game, which will decide who tops Group B4, the full-back said: “It’s huge, obviously Denmark are a very good team, but so are we.
“It’s a sell out at the Cardiff City Stadium, hopefully we can perform as best as we can, and obviously there’s a lot at stake at the end of it.
“It’s a must-win almost, we’ve got a lot of good young players in the squad who are hungry to be successful.”
Discussing whether or not this young Wales squad can take the next step, Roberts cited the victory over Ireland in the previous tournament as a reason for optimism.
“We were missing [Aaron] Ramsey, [Gareth] Bale, very big players who are match winners and we managed to grind out a result in a very tough place at the Aviva. Even though we’re young players, we’re playing week in week out.
“We’ve got a lot of players who know what it’s like to play in big games, and hopefully that can continue on Friday and the win comes.”
Wales play Denmark in Group B4 of the UEFA Nations League at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, 16th November. Kick-off: 19-45.