There is every chance that this season will ape the last one for Patrick Roberts and that his final visit to Hampden will prove to be a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.
It isn’t that the tea-leaves are saying the on-loan Manchester City winger today will fail to convert when presented with an open goal and Rangers will go on to win on penalties – as was the scenario he will never be allowed to forget that unfolded 12 months ago. Instead, he appears certain not to be at Hampden for the final on May 27 even if Celtic win today because of the Under-20 World Cup that will then be taking place in South Korea with England’s third group game against the hosts scheduled for the day before the Scottish Cup final.
Roberts was an integral performer as England booked their place in the tournament. The end of his 18-month loan deal with Celtic means that he will have no ties with the club beyond the conclusion of this league season. That surely makes the World Cup, and its profile south of the border, a bigger draw for Roberts than a prospective Scottish Cup final in which he would probably not start. Moreover, with the World Cup controlled by FIFA, clubs will be obliged to release players to national associations.
“I’m not sure yet [what will happen],” said Roberts. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens when it comes around. But whatever I have to do, I’ll do my best. As it starts in the middle of May, which is still during the season, I’m not sure. It’s a World Cup so they want their best players available, but they also know a lot of the boys will have big games for their clubs around them as well so it’s a bit up in the air. But I’ll just play my football and whoever it’s for, I’ll be giving my best and enjoy it.”
Roberts will not dwell on that clash or his infamous miss from last year’s semi-final. “It happens. It can happen to anyone. Obviously it was a big game but it goes out of my mind a couple of weeks later.
“I’m the sort of player... I don’t really let it faze me, I’m quite calm. I know football’s a tough sport with the media interest and all that these days, it can get to you, but you have to look at the brighter side. The game’s gone and the good thing is there’s a game after it, so you just get up and go again next time. I got a bit of stick from the boys and from my brother — just banter, really. They’re massive games, it was a semi final and there’s more on it this time with the way we’re playing. So 12 months on, hopefully it doesn’t happen again. We should be confident though. This game should be different.”