GARY Roberts has been impressed by Tranmere’s surprising progress in League One this season.

The Swindon Town winger, whose family home is less than an hour from Prenton Park, watched on as Ronnie Moore’s side leapt into top spot in the division in the early weeks of the campaign and held the lead despite numerous pundits predicting a pre-Christmas slide down the table.

Rovers come to the County Ground this evening still sitting pretty in first place, despite a run of no win in five in the league, and Roberts praised Moore and his men for their tremendous first half to the term.

“They’re 20 minutes from me over the water in the Wirral. You always check for your local teams’ results and they’ve had a great start,” he said.

“(Moore) is a good manager. The last time he got sacked I don’t think he really should have got sacked. I think they missed out on the play-offs on the last day and he lost his job. He’s proving he’s a good manager and he’s got them working hard.

“They probably don’t have the most talented squad but the work they put in, they work for each other. They’re a tight-knit group and fair play to them, people keep saying they’re going to drop off but they’re still there going into Christmas.

“I’d rather be in their position than ours.”

Roberts has been some way off his top form since returning from injury and he accepts that he will have to bide his time until he gets his chance to impress manager Paolo Di Canio.

“There are games when you might get a chance,” he said. “At the minute I wouldn’t dream of knocking on the manager’s door and saying ‘why aren’t I playing?’ because I’m not stupid. I know the lads are doing well.

“I wouldn’t kick and scream about being out of the side, I know I’ve got to work hard, but I think now with the games coming thick and fast I might get a chance to prove I‘m worthy of a place and more time on that pitch.”

With Christmas bringing four games in 10 days, Town’s resources are going to be stretched to the limit.

But Roberts said the investment Di Canio made in his squad in pre-season and in the loan market should pay dividends over the festive period.

“I think it proves valuable now,” he said. “The players he brought in at the start of the season and a couple since then, it all makes sense why he’s brought them in now for games like this.

“You’re going to need fresh legs every couple of days and, apart from Jay Mac and young Miles, everyone’s fit and ready to be selected. Hopefully we’ve got one of the strongest squads in the league and we can use it to our benefit over this period.”