Barnsley: Johnson has faith in unproven pro Roberts

Marc Roberts
Marc Roberts
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Barnsley boss Lee Johnson believes new signing Marc Roberts deserves the opportunity to test himself at a higher level following his summer move from Halifax Town.

The Barnsley-born 24-year-old has never played professional league football, but notched four goals in 46 games for the Shaymen in the Conference last season.

The Reds’ new recruit got the chance to meet his new team-mates as they got together for the final pre-season tests at the end of last week, and Johnson was pleasantly surprised by his contribution.

“He had a fantastic day, he was probably the trainer of the morning,” said the manager, speaking after Friday’s session. “He was one we feel deserves a chance in the league.

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on him because he’s 24, but he hasn’t had a go at full-time football yet.

“He’s got some outstanding attributes. He wins everything in the air, he’s decent on the ball for a big man, he’s strong, and he’s quick actually. We’ve just done the tests and we knew he was quick, but we didn’t expect him to be that quick.”

Roberts joins a young squad with limited experience of league action themselves, and Johnson is hopeful that he will adapt quickly to the rigours of League One football.

“It’s just a case of hoping and working with him and seeing if he can adapt to full-time football,” he added.

“If he can, he’ll improve up to 20% and then you’ve got a real sound player, because he was another player who was attracting a lot of interest.”

In addition to Roberts, the Reds have signed Marley Watkins from Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Johnson admits it is a slight risk to bring in players who are unproven at this level.

“They’re all gambles really, unless you’re signing somebody that’s in the prime of their career for big money,” he admitted.

“But they’re educated gambles, we’re not just throwing darts at the paper and signing whoever it lands on.

“We’re going through it properly, doing a lot of research and speaking to a lot of people about their personalities as well because that’s important. It’s not a process that’s taken lightly.”

The Reds are in talks with young Bolton striker Conor Wilkinson after the two clubs agreed a fee, and are also in pursuit of out-of-contract Brentford defender Alfie Mawson.

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