A Tribute to Fred Roberts: Glentoran Legend by Bobby Cosgrove.

Toe Heel or Head –Pass It to Fred.                        

 

Early Career

 

Born in Ballymacarrett prior to the First World War Fredrick Roberts was to become the greatest goal scoring machine in the history of Irish Football.  He stood 6ft 2ins tall, but on the 4th of May 1931 he stood 10ft tall as he broke Joe Bambrick’s goal scoring record.  Fred Roberts was signed from Broadway United– a junior club –in the close season of 1928.  He had previously made a name for himself while playing with Newington Rangers and then in the Irish league with Queens Island. He scored goals with ease and the experience that he gained with these clubs led to the Glens signing him, and what a signing it proved to be, he could kick with either foot and was a great header of the ball. As he lined up with players like John Geary, Willie Crooks, and Tommy Mc Keague the confidence seemed to flow from him and in his first season he scored 66 goals in 44 matches. In this season he scored 5 hat tricks, he also hit four goals in three games, and hit five goals in two other games. A Glen man all his life, to be signed by them and to play for them was a dream come true.  Fred scored on his debut against Newry Town and as well as his 66 goals in the league & cup he also scored 4 in friendly matches giving him a total of 70 goals in his opening season. Even after scoring all these goals at the end of the season he did not have a medal to show for it as the Glens did not win a trophy that season.

 

 

1929-30 Season.

 

This season was by Fred’s standards a quiet one as he only managed to score 57 league and cup goals and a further 4 in friendly games giving him a total of 61 goals in 44 games. Once again Fred’s efforts did not win him a medal, but this season belonged to our cross town rivals Linfield and their centre forward the great Joe Bambrick.  In the 1929-30 season Joe Bambrick broke the Irish goal scoring record when he found the net 94 times during the season, a wonderful feat of goal scoring.

1930-31 Season

 

This was to be Fred Roberts’s season in response to the record set by Joe Bambrick.  He began this phenomenal scoring spree  in August with a brace against Coleraine, and did not stop scoring until the end of the season.  In December of 1930 Fred hit 19 goals in 5 games including three hat tricks and 4 goals in another two games.  In February he scored six against Larne to bring his total to ten in the two league with Larne.

With only one game to play Bambrick had scored 94 goals to equal Joe’s record and went across the town to play Distillery in the first round of the Belfast Charity Cup.   Fred and indeed Glentoran had only one target in sight and that was to achieve the record for Fred.

They had to wait until half an hour into the game and a pass from J Geary found Callaghan on the right –he centered and Fred nodded in goal number 95 and broke Bambrick’s  record.  The press at the time reported that the roar was heard on the Newtownards Road.  Fred added a second as the Glens were beaten 3-2 but no one seemed to care— Fred had at last given them something to cheer about.  At the full time whistle the Glentoran supporters invaded the pitch and along with the team carried Fred on their shoulders as a tribute to his wonderful scoring prowess. During the season Fred had hit 8 hat tricks, four fours, one five, and a double hat trick once, and at last he was rewarded with both an Irish League and County Antrim Shield medal.

The total number of goals that Fred scored for the Glens that year was 105 as he scored a further 9 in friendly games— A remarkable record”.

1931-32   Season.

 

In 43 games Fred scored 64 goals in League and Cup for the season and  a further 5 in pre season games, while helping Glentoran   to an Irish Cup win.  He scored 6 hat tricks, two five and a six once against Larne.  This season saw him win an International Cap against Scotland.  The Linfield supporters often taunted the Glentoran fans with a rhyme,— “Head heel or toe —Give it to Joe”– The Glen men were now able to reply with –“Toe, heel, or head pass it to Fred”.

1932-33 Season.

 

This season saw the wee Glens retain the Irish Cup and finish runners up in the City Cup; it was also another season when Fred found the net 50 times in 46 games.  He hit six against Ards and scored 4 hat tricks but it was also the season that the Glentoran Board decided to give Fred Roberts a free transfer.  This caused shock waves among the supporters and the players, as he was still scoring goals on a regular basis. Fred Roberts accepted the decision and moved on, but he never lost his love of Glentoran and could be seen at all the games up until his death, when he was in his eighties.  A true gentleman both on and off the park, and a Glentoran icon, his record for the 5yrs was as follows……

 

Played     Scored    Singles Doubles   Hat Tricks Fours   Fives Sixes

230         352          67          60            25           8          8       3

 

The record that he set in the 1930-31season of 105 goals in total will most likely never be beaten, but the season after he was given his free transfer —1933-34— Glentorans total goals for the season was 105, and no silverware came to the Oval that season. I think that answers the questions that were asked about the transfer of Fred Roberts by the supporters, and players alike.

 

“I would ask the question was he Glentoran’s best ever centre forward”?

 Bobby Cosgrove

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