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John Roberts; a hero of the first Double

John Griffith Roberts was born 11 September 1946) and was one of the members of the first Double team in 1970/71 as well as gaining 22 caps for Wales.  He died on 4 January 2016

 

John was born in Abercynon, Rhondda Cynon Taff and played initially for Abercynon Athletic while also working as a railway fireman.  He moved to Swansea Town in 1963, and turned pro in 1964, gradually moving from being a forward to a centre half (number 5). He moved on to Northampton Town in 1967 and finally to Arsenal in 1969 for £35,000 – just in time for the Mee Extravaganza.  It must have been one hell of a leap – for at the time Northampton played on a three sided ground their shared with the county cricket club, and it was one of the most ramshackle grounds in the country. So from Northampton to Highbury where John won a league winner’s medal in the First Double season but did not play in the cup final.

He played the first 17 games of the Double season but then lost the number six shirt to Peter Simpson. returning just once more in match 38 where he played left back against Burnley on April 30.

However, Arsenal.com has the rather curious statement that “he often found himself behind Bob McNab in the pecking order”, but the reality was that both Roberts and McNab appeared in those opening 17 games together.

And indeed I’ve picked up one or two other little oddities in the telling of his story, such as the date of his first game.  So here’s a chronology of his Arsenal facts as I see them…

  • 30 April 1969: John Roberts signed
  • 4 October 1969: John Roberts league debut – a 0-1 home defeat to Coventry.
  • 3 October 1972: John Roberts final game in league cup v Rotherham.
  • 11 October 1972: John Roberts transferred to Birmingham

John Roberts left Arsenal having played 82 games and scoring two goals, and moved to Birmingham City, as we can see in the list above for £150,000. He later featured for Wrexham and Hull City and finally for non-league Oswestry Town.

He subsequently went on to work as a stationery salesman and as a driving instructor.

Here is John’s record for all games (league and cup) played while within the football league.

Season Team Games Goals
1964/7 Swansea Town 37 16
1967/9 Northampton Town 62 11
1969/72 Arsenal 59 5
1972/76 Birmingham City 66 1
1976/80 Wrexham 145 5
1980/82 Hull City 26 1

John Roberts at Arsenal (League games only)

Season League Games Goals
1969/70 11 1
1970/71 18 0
1971/72 21/2 3
1972/3 6/1 0
Total 56/3 4

And that would be that, except for a little bit about John’s son Matt, who is fitness expert who is known for his work with celebrities, helping to get them, well, fit.

Matt Roberts clients are said to include Naomi Campbell, The Saturdays, Trudi Styler and Amanda Holden.  And a while back the Daily Mail spotted him putting the David Cameron, the Prime Minister, through his paces.

Mr Roberts runs a fitness empire with four boutique gyms around London and is described as ‘one of the world’s leading personal trainers’.  You can find him at www.mattroberts.co.uk/   But it might not be possible to go and see him for a chat.  The Mail says an introductory rate with one of his regular trainers costs £80 and a package of 25 sessions is £1,650.

Apparently Mr Roberts junior is also the fitness expert for BBC Breakfast News but since I’m too busy editing Untold Arsenal at that time of day, I can’t verify this.

As with all the men who gave everything in that glorious season of 1970/1, and of course as with all the men who ever played for Arsenal, the Arsenal History Society wishes them well, and in the case of John, a very happy and long retirement.

The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

4 comments to John Roberts; a hero of the first Double

  • nicky

    John was a worthy successor to the great Herbie, the first of a long line of Arsenal “stopper” centre halves.

  • john lynch

    It is also reported that John was nicknamed “Garth” after a cartoon character and that he played an active part in defending team mates in the notorious brawl with Lazio.

  • Ted Beamand

    John scored nine goals against us when I played for Pontypridd ymca, what a centre forward.

  • Jamie

    The death of John Roberts at the age of 69 has been announced today.

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