The signing of Tyler Roberts from West Brom back in January 2018 was a bit of a coup, even if it went a bit under the radar at the time with everything else going on at the club. A ‘bright academy prospect’ he hadn’t got too many chances at West Brom but promised a bright future ahead of him after successful loan spells at Shrewsbury and Walsall. The Welsh national team were also tracking his progress closely having featured for them at youth level.
Roberts had hoped to hit the ground running at Leeds but an injury he was suffering from kept him out of the Cardiff match. A fractured shin bone picked up in training then meant the young striker missed out on the rest of the season and Leeds United post season tour of Myanmar. It wasn’t until July 2018 that he kicked a ball, a very frustrating time for a young player.
Roberts featured in Leeds pre-season campaign, netting against former club Oxford but come the start of the Championship season opportunities were limited again. With Kemar Roofe in the form that he is in and Patrick Bamford proving more than adequate backup he may have been worrying about where his chances would come aside from a few cup and substitute appearances out wide.
But with injuries to Bamford and Roofe in a short space of time Roberts would get his chance, thrown in at the deep end at the New Den in September 2018. The young striker got into good positions against Millwall, even if he didn’t manage to score but against Preston he really took his chance with two goals. The first a lovely lobbed finish after a ball over the top from Kalvin Phillips, the second what looked like an easy header after some great interplay left him in acers of space.
In March of this year he stepped into the No 10 role, a position that had caused Marcelo Bielsa issues since the departure of Samu Saiz. Roberts showed what he was capable of with two assists for Patrick Bamford. Unfortunately, injury stuck again and Roberts missed the final stages of the season including the play-offs. A promising partnership with Patrick Bamford had been showing signs of developing but it was not to be.
One of my biggest disappointments this summer was not the loss of Jansson or Roofe but the fact that Roberts would yet again miss the start of a campaign. Knee surgery in May kept him out until the Charlton game in September when he made an appearance as a 69th minute substitute. The next game against West Brom would see him come at half time only to be famously substituted after just half an hour. His disappointment was clear but Bielsa was keen to let everyone know what high regard he held Roberts in…
I want to take advantage to express something because I am worried about the substitution of Tyler Roberts. For one player it is very hard to assimilate he has played 25 minutes and accept he will come off again. It was not for his performance because he worked a lot. After the 15 minutes, the shape of the match turned and changed. I was forced to make a change and put on a more defensive player in the middle of the pitch.
Five games later, even with Hernandez returning from injury, Bielsa gave Roberts the nod in the No 10 position against QPR and the rewards came. Roberts was central to most of the good things Leeds were doing in attack, his link up play with Harrison particularly creating chances. Indeed Harrisons ball through to Roberts gave the young Welshman his first goal since last October after his first time shot nestled into the back of the net. Had it not been for a rather questionable offside flag Roberts would have grabbed an assist of his own as his cross was headed into the goal by Patrick Bamford.
One of Leeds United’s main problems this season has been lack of threat in the middle of the pitch, lack of a creative spark who can create chances and contribute with goals too. Roberts would seem like the obvious answer to this issue. Kalvin Phillips has rightly got the plaudits as our best young player of the last year and there has been a spotlight on the potential of Eddie Nketiah this season but Tyler Roberts is potentially our best prospect. Don’t forget at 20 years old he is the same age as Nketiah.
It’s been a tough start to his Leeds United career, still only 20 it must be difficult to spend so long on the side-lines itching to show the fans and manager what you can do. But Roberts has stepped up and shown that he has potentially a very bright Leeds United career ahead of him.