How Aberdeen new boy came close to quitting football and the ex-SPFL manager and defender who helped

A sixth-tier English club, a 25-year-old former Queen of the South right-back and an ex-Kilmarnock manager. The combination which ensured Aberdeen new boy Callum Roberts wasn’t one of hundreds of talented players to drift away from football.

In 2019, the 25-year-old found himself in a difficult position, on and off the park. There was the release from Newcastle United, following a season when he had scored his first goal for the club. From one minute being a Premier League footballer to starting from scratch almost, earning a deal elsewhere, all the while dealing with issues in his personal life.

There were offers abroad which didn’t appeal. There were trials at Southend United, Burnley and Middlesbrough. Burnley were keen to offer a deal, Boro were also keen but wanted him to extend a trial period by a further month with no money coming in.

No wonder the player, the person even, was scunnered with it all, considering chucking football.

Then came Blyth Spartans, their right-back Rhys Evans, and manager Lee Clark, who had Roberts at Kilmarnock during a loan spell, noting he “owes a lot to those two".

“That was probably the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Roberts said.

“I was in a headspace where I was thinking about possibly just giving up on playing football, or just go to Blyth and see how it goes.

“It was honestly the best thing I ever did. I loved it. Just playing regular football, playing well and then getting a move to Notts County.

Roberts had a loan spell with Kilmarnock. Picture: SNS

“One of my best mates from school was with me at Blyth. Even before I actually signed, he was always on at me to come and keep fit, keep my chin up and try to keep enjoying it.

"It was just at the point when I was having to go on trial with quite a few different clubs. I didn’t really like it or feel like I was getting anywhere.

“I was going through a tough time off the pitch as well and I just wanted to stay somewhere a bit closer to home.

“That’s why Blyth was ideal for me. It was just about finding that love for the game again. I was having to basically re-evaluate my whole life. Thankfully, I gave it another go.”

Callum Roberts made his debut for Aberdeen against Celtic on Sunday. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

‘No other choice’

And give it a go he certainly did. In half-a-season at Blyth, Roberts scored 17 in 25 games, prompting Notts County to sign the attacker.

Despite a “few options” elsewhere, he was prepared to stay with the club until Aberdeen arrived on the scene and he spoke to Goodwin.

"Some options were interesting, some were not so interesting,” Roberts, who expects to play “off the right or in the No10”, said.

“It was quite weird because one or two days before I had the interest from Aberdeen, I actually spoke to the manager at Notts County and said I was going to stay this season.

“I was going to see the season out, then see what happened at the end of the season.

“My agent then rang me and said Aberdeen were going to put a bid in. Obviously I had to tell him that I wanted to go. There was no other choice.”

Roberts could make his debut on Saturday when the Dons host St Mirren in the cinch Premiership.

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