Roberts: I'm dreading calling it a day!
HE S NOW in his 10th season at Dagenham & Redbridge, but goalkeeper and club legend Tony Roberts is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
by MIKE SIMMONDS
HE'S NOW in his 10th season at Dagenham & Redbridge, but goalkeeper and club legend Tony Roberts is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
The 40-year-old recently penned a new one-year deal at Victoria Road, and made his 450th appearance at Lincoln City last week.
Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Macclesfield Town was number 451 for Roberts, but he told the Post he has no plans of calling it quits just yet.
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"I love it, I've been here 10 years now," said Roberts, who made his Daggers debut on August 19, 2000, in a 2-1 Conference victory at Leigh RMI.
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"There's been a lot of changes, we've got stands behind us and we're going up the league, we've done really well.
"On a personal level, I just want to carry on for as long as I can. I dread the day when I can't do it anymore.
"I've played 450 games which is brilliant. When I started off I wanted to play lots of games and just keep it going.
"I come in on a Friday, do my routine that I've been doing for a long while now, and I just want to be available for the manager every Saturday."
Roberts has seen plenty of pretenders to his throne come and go over the years, but a remarkable fitness and disciplinary record has seen him miss just 12 competitive games since manager John Still took over back in April 2004.
The current number two is Chris Lewington, who has had to make do with a watching brief after joining in the summer, but according to Roberts, that's all part of the process.
"Chris is a decent keeper, he's only a young'un, but he's learning," said Roberts, who combines playing for Daggers with his role as academy goalkeeping coach at Arsenal.
"He's got better since the start of the season, because he's now in full-time training.
"I've taken him into Arsenal and he's improving all the time.
"He's got his role at the moment, which is learning. I went through it and you have to get the experience."
Roberts has played in front of some large crowds in his time at Victoria Road, the biggest being almost 6,000 who crammed in for an FA Cup match with Ipswich Town in 2002.
Saturday's attendance of 3,721 due to the club's community fight against racism day, was their 12th highest of all time, and fifth biggest league gate.
"It was great to see so many people turn up because of the initiative," said Roberts.
"It was a really good atmosphere. The first half we didn't play very well for them, but in the second half, I think it was worth their money."
Roberts wouldn't have been happy with the goal he conceded, as Lee Bell's long-range volley flew into the net, but the keeper felt the heavily-sanded goalmouth played its part.
"Someone's hit it, and it just hasn't bounced, it's like a sandpit there. It's just one of those things," said Roberts, who felt his side weren't at their best in the opening exchanges.
"He (John Still) wasn't happy first half. They had a couple of chances, but we upped the tempo a bit and played our way. That's what we can do, when we do our jobs.
"'Greeny's' (Danny Green) scored a great goal. We kept putting the ball in the box for the forwards and he's turned up trumps. It was superb technique."
The victory ensured Daggers remained in touch with the play-offs. With Still finally able to field a settled side recently, after the numerous loan signings during the Christmas period, Roberts is confident that Daggers can make the end of season lottery.
"We had players coming in and out of the team," he said.
"There were different full backs, different midfielders, but this time we're settled.
"Our last two games against Rotherham and Lincon, we've deserved to win those games, it was just that bit of luck.
"If we can start games like we finished on Saturday, we'll have no problems getting into the play-offs. We need six or seven wins to cement our place."
Daggers travel to Bradford this weekend, a ground where they have never lost since they became a Football League club.
Roberts even saved a penalty from Barry Conlon when Daggers won 2-0 back in the 2007/08 season, so he has happy memories of Valley Parade.
"It's a great stadium to go to, but stadiums and crowds don't win games, it's the team," warned the Welshman.
"We've been up there the last two years and done well. I saved a penalty too, but hopefully I won't be put in that position again.
"We need to make sure we start with our tempo from the second half of Saturday.
"If we go up there and do that, we'll have no problem."