Happy birthday to Rhyl FC all-time great Neil Roberts

Neil Roberts (red) in action for Wrexham. Picture: Gary M. Prior
|Credit: Getty Images

Neil Roberts’ stay in the Welsh Premier League was relatively short but highly impactive.

In 2008-09, the striker’s 20 goals guided Rhyl to their second national title.

Signed in summer 2008 after being released by Wrexham, it is not an exaggeration to say Roberts became one of the finest players to appear in the WPL.

Born on April 7, 1978, Neil celebrates his 43rd birthday today.

He will always be highly regarded by fans of the now former Rhyl FC.

Roberts started his career in 1994 at Wrexham.

After signing for the club as a trainee, he made his debut on 27 September 1997 during a 0–0 draw with Chesterfield before going on to score five goals in his next four games.

He became an established first-team player at the Racecourse Ground, making 75 starts and scoring 17 goals.

Neil left Wrexham in 2000 to join Wigan Athletic, where he made 125 appearances and scored 19 goals. He also spent time on loan at Hull City and Bradford City before making a permanent move to Doncaster Rovers in 2004, making 61 starts and netting eight times.

In 2006 Roberts returned to hometown club Wrexham, where he became team captain. He enjoyed a good start to the 2006–07 season, notching two goals in the first two games.

These goals were vital – a penalty in a 2–1 away victory against local rivals Chester City on 20 August 2006 and the opener in Wrexham’s 4–1 League Cup victory at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday three days later.

The rest of Neil’s season was disrupted by injuries, but on 21 April 2007 he came on as a second-half substitute in a game against Torquay United and netted the deciding goal to ensure a vital 1–0 win in Wrexham’s bid for survival in Football League Two.

He was let go by Wrexham in May 2008 following the club’s relegation to the Football Conference and joined Rhyl.

Roberts made a fantastic impression for the Lilywhites, scoring 23 goals across 36 matches in all competitions and 20 league – a crucial factor in Allan Bickerstaff and Osian Roberts’ side landing the Welsh Premier title for the second time in the club’s history.

Not surprisingly, Neil appeared in the 2008-09 Welsh Premier Dream Team of the Season.

He left Rhyl early in the 2009-10 season and became a project manager at Manchester City.

Neil won four full caps for Wales and three at under-21 level.

Happy birthday Neil – one of the nicest people I’ve met in football.

Neil Roberts – goals record at Rhyl 2008-09

Aug 16 (WPL): Rhyl 3 Newtown 0 (1 goal)
Aug 19 (League Cup): Rhyl 6 Airbus 1 (1)
Aug 30 (WPL) Rhyl 5 Llanelli 1 (2)
Sep 5 (WPL) Porthmadog 0 Rhyl 3 (1)
Oct 18 (WPL) Rhyl 3 Carmarthen Town 0 (2)
Nov 1 (Welsh Cup) Rhyl 4 Haverfordwest County 0 (2)
Nov 11 (WPL) Bangor City 0 Rhyl 2 (1)
Nov 21 (WPL) Airbus 1 Rhyl 3 (1)
Dec 6 (WPL) The New Saints 0 Rhyl 3 (1)
Dec 12 (WPL) Rhyl 3 Cefn Druids 4 (1)
Jan 17 (WPL) Rhyl 2 Porthmadog 0 (1)
Jan 20 (NWC) Rhyl 6 Llanrug United 0 (1 – match declared void. Rhyl expelled from competition for fielding ineligible player)
Jan 24 (WPL) Haverfordwest County 1 Rhyl 3 (1)
Feb 7 (WPL) Rhyl 4 Neath Athletic 2 (2)
Feb 21 (WPL) Gap Connah’s Quay 2 Rhyl 3 (2)
Mar 3 (WPL) Welshpool Town 0 Rhyl 2 (1)
Mar 13 (WPL) Rhyl 4 Bangor City 1 (1)
Apr 11 (WPL) Llanelli 0 Rhyl 1 (1)
Apr 18 (WPL) Rhyl 2 The New Saints 1
APPEARANCES: 36
GOALS: 23
Rhyl won every match in which Neil Roberts scored in 2008-09 except one

Neil Roberts – Wales caps

Wales 0 Switzerland 2 (09 October 1999 – UEFA European Championship Group 1)
Sub 77 min for Noel Blake

Azerbaijan 0 Wales 2 (20 November 2002 – UEFA European Championship Group 9)
Sub 90 min for Robert Earnshaw

USA 2 Wales 0 (26 May 2003 – International friendly)
Sub 57 min for Gareth Taylor

Norway 0 Wales 0 (27 May 2004 – International friendly)
Sub 71 min for Robert Earnshaw

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