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"I remember the narrow tunnel and I always called it the gateway to heaven"

Lee Roberts discusses his first, best and worst moments at City

16 May 2018

Lee Roberts first arrived at St James Park as a youngster on loan from Shrewsbury Town in March 1977 and made his debut against Crewe Alexandra.

September that year saw the forward turn his move into a permanent one as the Grecians paid £8,000 for his services. Roberts turned himself into a fan favourite at the club and he netted in the famous FA Cup tie against Newcastle United in the fifth round where his goal helped earn a replay against the Magpies.

Ben Strange caught up with the former Grecian as Roberts recalled some of his First, Best and Worst moments during his time at the club.

First...

...day at Exeter City

Well, I remember travelling down on the train and meeting Bobby Saxton at St David’s station then going into a hotel. There I signed to go on loan for a couple of months from Shrewsbury Town, I was very excited. I then played my first match against Crewe Alexandra where I thought: ‘oh my god, what have I come to.’ I started on the bench, our goalkeeper broke his ankle so one of the lads that also came on loan with me at the time, called Geoff Gay, ended up going in goal. Bobby Saxton, who was player-manager, ended up getting sent off and I’m sat there thinking: ‘what the hell is going on here!’ It was ironic because I was signed as a centre forward, but Saxton was after a centre-half and because Saxton was sent from the field, I was then thrown onto the pitch as a central defender!

...goal for Exeter City

That’s a tough one, I only remember one goal and that was against Newcastle United. Pete Rogers got a rollicking two seconds beforehand because he should have shot. He was then taking a throw-in and it came to me bouncing, inside the box, and all I was trying to do was help it on to the back post, but fortunately for me I shinned it a bit and it flew into the top corner!

...memories of St James Park

I’ll always remember the Old Grandstand, which is coming down, it’s sad but I understand that is has to happen for the club to progress. I remember the narrow tunnel and I always called it ‘the gateway to heaven’ because it has the iron bars on the side as you walk out. There’s lots of good memories.

Best...

...match for City

I enjoyed playing against Wolverhampton Wanderers where I played up front with Harry Holman. We played them in the FA Cup and went 1-0 up, I think Harry had scored. They equalised with a free-kick, and obviously, Wolves were a bigger and better side then. I then scored to make it 2-1 and they went and scored in the last second of the game with a cracking goal. Their fans went mad and invaded the pitch, knocking all the signs down. Somebody had said that was the fastest they’d ever seen me run, as everyone ran on the pitch, because I was trying to get off it!

...piece of advice given to you

That’s tough, I’ve had a few. Richie Barker, who was the coach at Shrewsbury, that I didn’t really appreciate when I was there. I was a young man and I thought he was a bit of a taskmaster but it dawned on me when I left that, everything he told me to do, all the bits of advice, I did when I was at Exeter in the games and the pointers used to help me a lot.

...player you played with

Tony Kellow is my hero! Always has been and always will be. I named my daughter after him, obviously, she’s called Toni, not Kellow! But there were loads of other good players like Steve Neville and John Sims, I could go on forever. Even lads that couldn’t get in the team that regularly when I was there, there was one called Tony Mitchell who was a defender, and he was the one that Kells (Tony Kellow) used to hate playing against because he was like a leech, he was everywhere. Even though he didn’t play too often, he was still a cracking player.

Worst...

...result you've endured

I often think about this one, against Watford. We were away from home and it was when they were a really strong team under Graham Taylor. We got absolutely hammered there, I think it was 4-0 or something like that but it could have been 24! It was constant attack, attack, attack. Obviously, we were gutted we lost because we were trying but they were just too good.

...away trip

I used to love going everywhere but there’s one trip to Carlisle which I will always remember! A lad called Andy Bell, who was making his debut, overslept and the game had been called off. We went to go and watch West Bromwich Albion play instead. We were all on the bus coming back down and we suddenly realised that Andy wasn’t on the bus, he’d had a lie in thinking he’d have more time before he had to get up. He ended up getting a taxi to a service station and meeting us there.

...injury

I damaged my knee which finished my career. It was a tackle at Wrexham from one of their strikers who bust my knee, I was advised to stop playing.

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