Roberts is poised to make his 50th appearance for Wales on Wales’ Connor Roberts (Image: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.)
“Every time I do get a call up, I text my mam, text my dad, text my wife, and say, ‘I got called up again’.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone to see Connor Roberts walk out with his Wales team-mates in Riga on Monday night, but despite standing on the verge of his 50th cap, the former Swansea City star still takes nothing for granted.
Indeed, despite his confident showings on the pitch over the last five years, Roberts has always felt he’s had a point to prove.
To himself more than anything.
While struggling to breakthrough with his beloved Swans, a series of difficult loan stints left Roberts lying awake at night wondering if he’d even make it as a footballer at all, let alone become one of his country’s brightest stars.
Over the course of three years, Roberts found himself watching on from the sidelines, racked with self-doubt about his own ability.
He freely admits it was a dark chapter in his career, and the emotional scars of that time clearly still run deep.
It also makes this latest potential milestone all the sweeter.
“When I was at Yeovil, it didn’t really go well,” he remembers. “I was in League Two and then I went to League One [with Bristol Rovers] and I didn’t play. I played three games in six months.
“Then I went to Middlesbrough, and it was the same. There was many a time at Middlesbrough and at Bristol, where I sat, laid in my bed on my own miles away from my family, thinking maybe I ain’t good enough to be a footballer.
“Now I sit here, I have nearly 50 caps for my country and no-one can ever take that away from me. So I’m proud of myself and I hope my friends and family are proud of me too.
“The more times I can play and the more little triumphs I can have, the better it is.
“I’m not very young anymore but I’ve experienced quite a lot in a short space of time. I didn’t really make a breakthrough to Swansea until I was 22. I think in the space of six or seven years I’ve achieved quite a lot, so I am proud of myself.
“I have to keep on striving to make myself even more proud, I suppose.”
After eventually making his Swans debut in the Premier League in 2018 under Carlos Carvalhal, Roberts would, of course, go on to enjoy a meteoric rise, and would play his first game for Wales in the China Cup just over 100 days later.
But despite all the successes since then, the man affectionately known as the ‘Crynant Cafu’ still seems to live in the fear this dream could come to an abrupt end at any moment, meaning his enthusiasm for every milestone remains firmly unblemished in his advancing years.
For him, the red shirt is still just as special and just as appreciated as it was when he first pulled it on five years ago.
“It’s still brilliant,” he says. “And when I started playing for Wales, since my second, third, fourth cap, I always did wonder, I imagine how incredible it would be to get 50 caps. And we sit here now, and I’m nearly on that.
“So hopefully I can achieve that. And it would be incredible. That first camp, the first time I ever got called up, it was a bit surreal, to be honest. I’d only played a handful of games for Swansea.
“A few months before that, I was at Middlesbrough not playing – absolutely hating my life.
“And a few months later I was getting called up, went away to China and I managed to get on the pitch. That is a distant memory now. Luckily, I’ve had many times on the pitch for Wales since.”
If he does play on Monday, there will be little chance for Roberts to really get caught up in the occasion, mind.
Despite playing his part in an admirable draw against South Korea on Thursday, Wales have a job to do to get their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign back on track.
The defeats to Turkey and, more damagingly, at home to Armenia, have piled pressure on Rob Page in recent weeks, and perhaps the rest of the squad too.
But having overcome so many obstacles to get to this point, Roberts is clearly relishing the challenge, and is well-placed to put it all into perspective.
“I’ve played in lots of big games. We have to remember where we’ve came from. And if we do lose, it’s not the be all and end all. Life still goes on. No one’s died. And we have to move on.
“It’s a massive game. But for me, personally, it’s just another game of football.
“I’ll go out there and give absolutely everything for my country and for myself.”