Englishman on brink of rare treble
An English teacher who came to Christchurch to play cricket and catch up with an old boyhood buddy is about to play in New Zealand's equivalent of the FA Cup final.
Shaun Roberts was only a part-time footballer in Norfolk but the goalkeeper stands on a brink of a rare football treble in his first year in New Zealand.
The 28-year-old has yet to concede a goal in the Chatham Cup this season and will be between the posts for Cashmere Technical in Sunday's final against Waitakere City at English Park.
Roberts came to New Zealand to see Matt Ede, his best friend in Norwich, before Ede's family moved to Christchurch seven years ago.
The pals played cricket together for the Old Boys Collegians club's second grade side with Roberts, an off-spin bowler, making one appearance for the senior team that went on to be crowned national champions.
"Matt's younger brother, Dan, who was only a child of 13 when the family left England, asked if I fancied playing football," Roberts said.
"I said I'd give it a go so he took me down to Cashmere Tech for a couple of training sessions.
"I went back and finished the cricket season then got stuck into football."
Cricket was Roberts's main sporting passion in Norwich where he played in the strong East Anglian Premier League, alongside some former internationals.
"I played football for my local team but I didn't really take it too seriously. I'm a teacher back home and going to training twice a week was quite difficult to fit in.
"But, at 28, I was getting to the peak of my career, so when Dan suggested going to Cashmere Tech, I thought I'd give it a go. I thought it'd be something to keep me occupied in the winter."
Roberts knew Tech had "a couple of decent keepers", including Canterbury United youth team goalie Danny Knight.
He had to bide his time before getting a chance to play but kept his place as Tech went on to win the Mainland Premier League title and South Island Championship crown last weekend when Roberts saved a couple of penalties in a shoot-out victory over Dunedin Technical.
Roberts said everyone in the Tech camp has "their hearts set on winning the Chatham Cup".
"It would be fantastic to win the national competition. This will be a big step-up - Waitakere have got a very good side but we haven't conceded a goal in the Chatham Cup yet, which is pretty special.
"If we can keep a clean sheet in the final, there's probably not many goalkeepers who can say they went through a whole Chatham Cup campaign without conceding a goal."
The Tech keeper is quick to deflect praise to the "good back four in front of me".
Dan Schwarz stepped in after an injury to centreback James Price and joins Tom Schwarz, Dan Terris and Danny Boys as a resolute rearguard.
After his success this season, it's not surprising that Roberts reckons he'll be back for another crack in 2014
"I'm going home in November with a view to coming back to play for Tech next year."
He may have put his hand up for Canterbury United but said spending two months in England would probably put paid to that ambition.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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