Having moved from Fulham to Man City in 2015, Patrick Roberts is a player that is familiar with the pressures of big expectations. On Loan at Celtic and cutting his teeth with the Scottish Champions he's earned medals, made a Champions League debut and even scored against his parent club. We sat down to get a glimpse of a life on Loan with a man maturing with every appearance.
At just 19 you’ve had quite the footballing education with Fulham, obviously Man City and now Celtic. How would you describe the journey you’ve been on?
"It’s been good. I’ve been at a few clubs now and I’ve been through the experience of moving clubs and moving cities which has been good. I’ve been in London, where I was born, Manchester, which was a good experience and now Glasgow which is even further afield but I’ve enjoyed it. Hopefully it’s something that will set me up for a good few years ahead."
You’re still very young but naturally, being in around first teams of all the clubs you’ve been that, do you think you’ve had to grow up pretty quickly?
"Yeah, I guess it was pretty quick in the way I went to the first team at Fulham. We changed managers and I came back from playing for England and the Assistant kind of spoke to me and said “move your stuff, you’re going to the first team changing room”. So it was a case of one week playing with the lads I was used to and the next I was in the changing room and training everyday with the first team. You had the likes of John Arne Riise and Berbatov there at the time. So it was a whole different experience but yeah, you do have to grow up fast and move on and mature as a player and a person."
There’s a lot of positive hype around you - big money moves and plenty of expectation - is that something that has come naturally to deal with?
"It’s always tough I’d say. Being a footballer is something that people look at as an easy job but it is hard. Players get set backs on the way and with things like social media these days, it’s very vast and you get a lot of stick. To that point though, you do also get a lot of good publicity and it's a two way street. You get good times and bad times. The key is how you deal with them and I feel like I’ve dealt with them well so far."
Finding places to live, living out of a suitcase to a certain extent perhaps - did joining Celtic feel like a place you could really settle and focus on your development?
"I think so. At the time, I was looking to get out on loan and Celtic was one of the bigger clubs that came in for me. Obviously I’ve been in England and watched the Celtic v Rangers games and stuff and naturally everyone keeps an eye on what's going on up here all the time so I think for me, it was an easy decision. Eighteen months at the time seemed like a long amount of time but it’s been good for me and I think I’ve improved a lot. I think I’ve improved as a player and grown up a lot as a person in that time too."
As well as on the club level, you’re also on a journey with England. Have the moves you’ve made and the first team action they’ve given you, helped you step up to the international game?
"I’ve been in the England set up since I was sixteen so you get kind of used to that in a sense. Playing for England is very different to playing with your club. The players are obviously different and everyone is the same age so the football itself is different. It’s enjoyable when it comes around though and it’s a privilege to be able to play for your country."
Going from youth level and then into the various first teams, that step up must have been quite the eye opener for you? Did that take some getting used to?
"A little bit. You’ve got to kind of mature because they’re big players with big expectations. They’re regulars in the Champions League and World Cups so you’ve got to teach yourself as a person to be able to deal with those kind of situations."
Can we talk about the actual experience of going out on loan - there must be a few people involved. Who initiated the thought of going out on Loan?
"At the time, it was myself and Man City. I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to play which is understandable at a club with just so many top quality players so the decision was one made by myself and the club. I had a few options as to where to go but it was Celtic that stood out and I’m more than happy to be here."
What thoughts can you remember going through your head when it was coming together, were there nerves / excitement or a mixture of other things?
"Going on loan anywhere is always going to be tough I’d say. There’s going to be expectations to deliver every week and when I first joined the fixtures were coming thick and fast and up here, every team wants to beat you because we were the Champions so you’ve got the pressure of keeping that reputation intact and I think it was a tough ask but one I can say I think I’ve dealt with well."
And for your family? You’re a little further away from them than you used to be - how have they found it do you think?
"Yeah they come to the games and they all enjoy it. They’re big into football. My sister is a player too - whenever they get a chance to come up they do. Maybe not too many away games but when they can, they do. My sister plays for AFC Wimbledon, the team I used to play for when I was younger."
Did you set out objectives for what you wanted to achieve while on loan so that you’d come back to Man City a certain type of player?
"No not really. It’s just to improve my overall game. It’s the same for the club, just so long as you’re getting games - they just want you to be playing and improving. The games and experience under your belt, especially the Champions League is key. It puts you in good stead for the career."
Moving to Celtic to some extent means you’re going to be hunting for trophies and you’ve got them in your time here too. Is that added pressure?
"It can be. Yeah, trophies at this club is what everyone would probably say is a must. I’ve enjoyed being able to get two in the time I’ve been here. We’ve got the league and the cup to go this season so hopefully we can keep hitting those heights. It’s all about focusing on ourselves ultimately. If we work hard, we’ll get the rewards."
It’s also meant that you’re put in the media spotlight and a focal point for fans rather than on the outskirts of the action - what’s that extra attention been like?
"Do you enjoy the off pitch elements that the game brings with it? Yeah I do. I enjoy it all. I’m a fan at the end of the day. When you see any player now you still have that urge to get a picture with them. I met Steven Gerrard in Dubai - he was one of my heroes growing up so things like that mean a lot. We’re all still kids at heart so when kids come up to you and adults come up to you, you want to give back to them as well. You’re not just playing for yourself but you’re playing for the club which the one they’ve grown up supporting so you’ve got to give everything for them too."
As we said earlier, you’ve had to grow up pretty fast and your experiences in meeting new people and acclimating to different clubs and fans etc - can you see differences in yourself between now and a year ago?
"I’ve been lucky to get many big games under my belt between now and back then so yeah, I mean, you grow up that little bit more with every game you get. You enjoy it every more and get that feeling as to what it is like to play every week. It’s a good experience and a good way to go out on loan."
Getting fresh experience in the way you have and going out on loan - you hear some clubs with a crazy amount of players on loan - would you recommend it as an experience to other top young players?
"Coming to club like this, I’d definitely recommend it. I’d tell any player who was interested to come here. It does everyone good. It’s a different environment to what you’re used to. I think when I think of City, all the glamour that is there but going to some clubs you get a real sense as to what football is about. Some clubs don’t have the resources that say City or Chelsea do so you’d get used to a more real side of football and not take the rest of it for granted. Any club you’re at, there will always be some players that take it all for granted. I think you should never have that in football. It’s a short career."
Again when talking about club v country - is it much more physical when you’re playing on club levels in comparison to when you play with England? The players you’re up against may still be playing for their youth sides when they go back to their clubs...
"When you’re in the club set up you’re playing against a lot of experienced men who have been around for years and obviously they’re wiser than you with that extra knowledge. When you play for England, you are playing against peers rather than other age groups. I’d say though, playing for England is tough. You get players from Spain or Italy that might not be physically huge but there technical game is unbelievable so it’s a different type of match-up."
What have been the highest points in your career to date - you’ve already performed on many levels but what really stands out?
"I’d say, the Champions League with Celtic. That was good for me. Good for my development. We won the Euros with England and we’ve got the World Cup at the end of this season so I’m looking forward to that. Not many England teams have done what the age group I’m part of has so that’s exciting."
What’s that feeling like when you go into the changing room and you see a shirt with your name on, hanging and waiting for you? Will that always feel special?
"Yeah, for any player that is a dream come true. Your family name on the back of your shirt is special and yeah, it gives you a buzz. It’s nice when you see kids wearing your shirt. You can’t take those moments for granted."
Football is not without its low points too - have you had to overcome any battles to date that stick out? Whether it’s injury or a time when you thought you might got get your chance etc…
"...missing a sitter in a semi-final… yeah there’s been loads to be honest. We all have set-backs in life. I’ve not had any serious injuries touch wood but yeah some things stay with you. I missed an open goal in the semi-final of the cup against Rangers which hurt at the time. It’s forgotten for me now but you get over these things and learn from them. Now it’s about when you do look back, that it never happens again and you make sure you’re only ever improving."
Patrick Roberts and his Celtic FC teammates wear kit provided by New Balance – available here
Photography by Adam Barnsley for SoccerBible.