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SWINDON TOWN: Roberts determined to win over critics
“I’VE got half a season to put things right, to prove to myself and prove to the manager that I’m good enough to play for the team.”
Gary Roberts’ honest and blunt assessment of his sticky start to life in a Swindon Town shirt showed he understands that he has not lived up to expectations in Wiltshire, but he is determined to win the fans over in the coming months.
The winger arrived at the County Ground following his release from Huddersfield over the summer as one of manager Paolo Di Canio’s marquee signings.
He had been tormenting full-backs and goalkeepers at League One level for years, and came to the Robins with the pedigree and experience Di Canio craved as he looked to build a squad capable of challenging for back-to-back promotions.
A fine pre-season followed, and Roberts looked in good nick going into the start of the campaign. However, a torn calf derailed his preparations, a month was spent on the sidelines and since his return he has struggled for form.
Evidently talented, the 28-year-old is clearly frustrated that he has not exhibited his true abilities to the Swindon supporters. But he was open and up front about how he plans to change people’s perceptions of him in 2013.
“I think I’m my own biggest critic and I know I’ve been below-par personally,” he said.
“To see I’m out the side, I think, is deserved because I don’t think I’ve done enough to stay in the team and get in the team.
“I haven’t scored enough goals, I haven’t played well consistently, I’ve had decent little spells in games but that’s it.
“Probably the last five games - I don’t know whether it’s confidence or niggles with injuries but you can’t make excuses - I’m bitterly disappointed. But you get your head down, you get on the training ground and try to get back to basics because you don’t become a bad player overnight.
“I try to tell myself that but hopefully the tide will turn and I can put in some good performances for the club and try to show why the manager brought me here and win some fans over.
“I don’t like making excuses. I should be fit enough but I’m just more disappointed after the work we put in in Italy. The work was really hard and it was the fittest I’d had myself for a good few years, and to go into the season after a good pre-season to get a torn calf four days before the season knocked me for six.
“Getting back fit and re-tearing it made me play catch-up. Now it’s not about fitness, I’m as fit as I can be, it’s just about form. I think I’m a little bit low on confidence at the minute and you’re not really looking for the ball as much as you would.
“It’s weird with a footballer. Confidence is a big thing. But I’m big enough and strong enough and old enough and experienced now to just get my head down and try to put things right.
“I’ve got half a season to put things right to prove to myself and prove to the manager that I’m good enough to play for the team.”
Improving his form is one thing, but Roberts will have to force his way past either Raffa De Vita or Matt Ritchie, both of whom are in fine fettle, to break into the first team.
And he realises that will not be an easy task.
He said: “At the minute I can’t do much, Raffa and Matty are playing really well and I’m more than happy for the pair of them. From a selfish point of view you have to be better than them and at the minute it’s not happening so they deserve the shirt.
“If you get that 20-minute spell you’ve got to try to get on and try to make a difference. I came on against Doncaster and missed a chance which I haven’t slept much since thinking about.
“They’re chances when you’re confident you put away without thinking twice.
“I don’t read too much into websites because that can really beat you up but you can sense it as a footballer. I’m a fan myself, I support Everton, so you know when fans are happy with you. Fans can be won over as quickly as you lose them so a couple of good performances and a couple of goals would be nice.”