ONE of Pembrokeshire’s most popular football figures lost his fight against cancer on Sunday night.
Sixty-year-old Derek Roberts passed away at Withybush Hospital where he had worked as an employee for most of his working life.
Many tributes have already been placed on Twitter and Facebook as the sad news spread amongst the community.
Derek played for Haverfordwest County Youth in the team that beat Carew to lift the Wiltshire Cup in 1970. Derek also made his debut in the early 1970s playing as a defender for Haverfordwest County in the old Welsh League Division One. He later played for the highly successful Merlins Bridge team who won Pembrokeshire Football League division one two years on the trot in 1979 and ’80, and the same team won the Senior Cup three times from 1978 to 1980, and achieved the double two years running.
Following his retirement from football he took up many coaching and managerial positions with teams such as Merlins Bridge, Camrose and Haverfordwest County.
He also gained an ‘a licence’ as a football coach with good friend Michael Ellis, and had spells as an academy coach with Cardiff City and Swansea City.
Earlier this year Derek underwent a successful liver transplant in a hospital in Birmingham.
Following his recuperation this summer he felt a lot better and set up his own football coaching school for children at the Bridge Meadow called the ‘Soccer Blast Coaching For Kids.’ All the money raised from these sessions was handed to Birmingham Royal Infirmary and Wales Air Ambulance.
In August, Derek was thrown a surprise 60th birthday at the Haverfordwest County clubhouse where many family and friends celebrated.
Haverfordwest County chairman Rob Summons said: “Derek was a fantastic and genuine man who was a great friend to me. I will miss him greatly but will treasure the memories of all the good times we had together. He was one of the bravest people I have ever known.”Former Bluebirds manager and friend Michael Ellis said: “It is such sad news that Derek has passed away.“I can’t believe it’s happened so quickly. Life is hard to take when someone so special is taken so early in life.”
Pembrokeshire League secretary Brian Hawkins said: “The Pembrokeshire Football League would like to pass on our sincere condolences to the family. Our thoughts are with them during this sad time. He spent a lot of time coaching in Pembrokeshire and will be sorely missed.”
The funeral will take place next Monday, December 11 at Parc Gwyn Crematorium, Narberth at 3.15pm, and after the service the wake will be at Haverfordwest Golf Club.
There will be no flowers and all donations are for the Liver Transplant Foundation in Birmingham. All cheques made payable to Mr Rob Summons, 19 West Street, Rosemarket, SA71 1JH.
Chris O’Sullivan, Haverfordwest County
The Man was a true Gentleman, a proper mans man, always had class about him no matter what he said or did.! This world at times is very unfair, takes all the good ones.! Was an absolute pleasure to play my football in an around the same football club as him for so long, great coach and an absolute great man.. RIP Mr Derek Roberts you will be missed greatly xxx
Adam Raymond, Formerly Haverfordwest County
Absolutely stunned and devastated to hear the news about a true Pembrokeshire football great. My first county coach and the man who gave me so many opportunities in the game. An absolute gentleman and somebody who I could always rely on for advice and guidance. Rest in Peace Derek Rocco Roberts x
Jason Rice Merlins Bridge
The Pembs football community has sadly lost a great man I’m DEREK ROBERTS, it was Derek that gave me baptism of fire debut in Pembs footie as a 17 yr old way back in 1990 down in S’Foot, I came on for last 10 mins for the Merlins Bridge for legend Tony Jones who got injured (shock)! ,Derek simply said Ricey I know your keen but just enjoy it, show us what u got but don’t do anything silly, next thing I get nut megged so I just turn around and before the bastard crosses it, bang i take him down… yellow card! Fair play mind Derek after game put his hand on my shoulder and said, well done Ricey, good tackle but next time tuck your balls away and close your legs, even only last year we still laughed about that. brilliant advice by a brilliant coach which I’ve never forgotten.RIP Derek.