While the English winger continues to relish his loan spell at Celtic, with the prospect of a domestic treble clearly on the horizon, his parent club are struggling to meet the expectations which Pep Guardiola’s appointment as manager generated last summer.
Ironically, Roberts has played a part in the difficulties experienced by his primary employers. He was involved in Celtic’s dramatic 3-3 draw with City in the Champions League back in September, which ended Guardiola’s perfect winning start in the job, then scored the Scottish champions’ goal in the 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium in December.
Roberts is due to leave Celtic at the end of this season and return to City where he is under contract until 2020 following his £12 million move there from Fulham in 2015.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has already expressed a willingness to extend Roberts’ stay in Glasgow for another season and the 19-year-old admits he remains uncertain as to where his future lies.
“No, not yet,” said Roberts. “I have just focused on this season and trying to enjoy it. I am just looking to this season, I haven’t thought about it at all. I will think about it when it comes to it. The manager here has been great and he has expressed to me how he likes me as a player and it is good for me to know that he believes in me. He understands that you don’t know what is going to happen in football so I just want to enjoy my football right now.
“I don’t speak to anyone at City in relation to next season. I speak to the staff down there who speak to me, who keep me pushing on and keep me going throughout the season. But I haven’t spoken to Pep or anyone. I got a few texts after the goal at the Etihad. I am part of City and they want me to do well. I spoke to a few people down there that I had dealings with and they were all pleased for me, even though I’d scored against City.
“I keep an eye on them as they are always on TV and they have been getting a bit of press because they haven’t been doing as well as they should be doing in the Premier League. But they are a top team with top players and a top manager and they will bounce back and have a good run. I have loved every minute of playing up here for Celtic. There have been a lot of games, good atmospheres and it is a really good bunch of lads. The impression I got before I came here was that it was a professional, top-class club and that is exactly what I have found. I just want to enjoy the rest of the season now.”
Roberts has featured regularly in Rodgers’ side this season, with 16 starting appearances and another 13 from the bench. His role as a substitute has generally been dictated by the resurgence in form of Scotland winger James Forrest.
“Everyone in the squad deserves to be there because they are all good players and the manager has brought new belief to us all,” added Roberts. “James is a great player and he has shown that with his performances this season. He is a top player and I am glad for him that he is doing well, even if he is keeping me out of the side just now.”
Roberts, who impressed when he replaced Forrest in the closing stages of Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie against Albion Rovers and created two goals in Celtic’s 3-0 win, hopes to play a part in tonight’s potentially record-equalling Premiership fixture against St Johnstone at Parkhead.
If they avoid defeat, Rodgers’ side will equal the post-war record of 26 unbeaten domestic matches from the start of a season which was set by Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions all of 50 years ago.
“That would be great,” said Roberts. “Hopefully, we can go into the game as we always have this season and go looking to get the best result that we can. The manager is experienced at motivating players and he has that in the locker. He has said to us that we need to keep pushing and not get slack or we will lose games. He has kept us thinking that way throughout the season and, especially after the winter break trip to Dubai, we have to keep going and keep our focus.
“Players just enjoy playing football and enjoy winning. When you are winning every week you get a real buzz out of it and you want to keep doing it. I think the momentum right now is good and, as long as we stay focused and concentrate, I am sure it will be a good season.”
As Celtic seek to maintain their impressive undefeated sequence, Roberts anticipates facing an increasingly robust approach from their opponents.
As a technically gifted winger capable of making defenders appear foolish at times, he insists he has become accustomed to dealing with overly physical attempts to stop him in his tracks.
“I guess any team, when they play Celtic, will look to kick us off the park,” he said. “We have so much quality in the team and they look for other ways to stop us, but that is normal.
“We go into each game and we have to sense that and look for ways to overcome it.
“We are all good players, right down to our defence, but it can be tough when they come to Celtic Park or we go away and we know there are no easy games and try to overcome these things.
“I have been kicked many times, even in English football. Everyone has their pride and they don’t want to be embarrassed if you get past them. We just get on with it.”