Osian Roberts – A Manager In Demand

By Adam Angerer

Not many people can say they have influenced the coaching careers of Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira.

Those are all well known names within the football world, but there is one man who has played a key role in their coaching careers, while also succeeding in his own.

Step forward Osian Roberts – the former assistant to Vieira at Crystal Palace, who is now at the helm of newly promoted Serie A side Como 1907.

Arteta, Henry and Vieira were all taught by Roberts during his role as Technical Director in the coaching system at FA Wales, which is widely regarded as one of the best methods for coaches to receive their badges in order to join Europe’s elite competitions.

Once described as “the most influential man in Welsh football,” Roberts has certainly caught the eye of many fans in Italy after leading Como to their first promotion to the top flight in over 20 years.

So what makes him so special? And is he a potential candidate for Wales manager?

Como finished in 13th place for two consecutive seasons in the Italian second tier, but since Roberts took charge at the beginning of 2024, a remarkable turnaround has seen them return to the top flight for the first time since 2003.

With former Chelsea, Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas by his side, a revamped Como have become a fans’ favourite in Italy.

Luca Bianchi, an avid supporter of the club, admitted there were doubts about the appointment of Roberts, but the manager has proved the majority of the fanbase wrong.

“There was scepticism among the fans, myself included,” said Bianchi. “Our previous coach Moreno Longo was doing an excellent job before his departure, but as soon as Osian stepped in, he integrated well into the society and immediately showed excellent chemistry with Fabregas.

“I have always appreciated Roberts and his demeanor during matches. His relationship with Fabregas, the press and the fans has been incredible.

“Since his arrival, the team has improved massively in terms of gameplay and grinding out important results.”

It is now no secret to Italian fans that Roberts has an aura about him. He is a motivator with a powerful Welsh accent, but he is also a mastermind tactician who sees the game in his own unique way.

“Roberts opts for a 4-2-3-1 formation, which the club has hardly used before,” Bianchi added. “Our striker Patrick Cutrone is made to work all over the pitch.

“He drops back into the midfield, usually behind Alessandro Gabrielloni, which has clearly paid off as Cutrone has 14 goals in the league this year. Those two have been revitalised by the coach.

“We have only conceded 17 goals since Roberts arrived, so Roberts has given us a real resurgence for the past few months now and we’re glad to have him leading Como.”

Roberts has already proven he can lead a turnaround at a football club – and he certainly has the ability to do it on the international stage.

The question is now whether Roberts could carry his already impressive skills over to the Wales job.

His love for the country and past success as FA Wales Technical Director certainly puts him in contention.

Current Wales boss Rob Page has come under a lot of scrutiny recently after a disappointing defeat to Poland in the Euro 2024 Play-Off final.

That loss was agonising for Wales and nearly every single fan inside the Cardiff City Stadium that night was left holding their heads after Dan James missed his decisive spot kick in a tense penalty shootout.

There were already huge amounts of frustration heading into the Play-Off final after consecutive draws to Armenia and Turkey meant Wales’ hopes of automatic qualification faded away.

To many Welsh fans, Page’s position as manager is in danger and there is a need for change.

‘’I think now is the right time for Wales to appoint a new manager,’’ said Welsh football journalist and fan Tomi Caws, who strongly believes Roberts is the perfect replacement for Page.

‘’Roberts was a massive part of the success with Chris Coleman (former Wales manager) as assistant, and I think now is the time for him to be at the helm due to his success with Fabregas at Como.

‘’We know Osian has helped the likes of Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry before, so maybe we could see one of these help him out if he was to take the job.

‘’His experiences are different as Page has been a number one before he became Wales manager, so while I do still think Roberts should be the man to lead our country forward, he would certainly need an exceptionally good team around him.

‘’If you speak to anyone who has worked with Osian, they all have massive respect for him and he is dining at the top table of football in many ways now, so he is the obvious choice to take over.’’

Not only was Roberts doing a fantastic job assisting Coleman, significant developments off the pitch before that spell also brought him closer to the fans.

The 58-year-old played a key role in a youth development programme, which created a pathway for current Wales stars Neco Williams, Harry Wilson and Ethan Ampadu to reach the senior squad.

Roberts also shows his love for the Welsh national anthem as during his time in the youth development programme, he hired Courtenay Hamilton – a professional singer, who taught Roberts’ young players the full lyrics.

‘’He has a breadth of talent and knowledge,’’ added Caws. He was also instrumental in getting fantastic facilities in his hometown Anglesey.

‘’It goes to show that every field he has ever worked in, he has been successful, so for me, it is a no brainer for Roberts to become our manager.

‘’It would be an extremely popular appointment because almost everybody across the country respects him.

‘’He would certainly need experience alongside him, but hopefully he can bring in his own staff and bring success to our nation.’’

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