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Connor Roberts, please don’t be the new Richard Duffy
Friday, 3rd Sep 2021 09:00 by Keith Haynes

Swansea City academy product Connor Roberts turned down a new three year contract with his home town club to take on the premier league with Burnley on deadline day. Despite efforts before he chose to move away from the swans the club couldn’t change his mind. He wanted to be tested at the highest levels of English football.

It reminds me of Richard Duffy who also moved from the swans back in 2004. Although Duffy played nowhere near the amount of games for the swans as some would remember, he too was lured away from his home town club in similar circumstances. The money wasn’t the same as Roberts lucrative new Burnley contract, but the lure of football at a higher level was no different. Duffy, a much admired swans youth product was unsettled by Harry Redknapp who was then manager of Portsmouth, and he left the club much to the displeasure of swans manager Brian Flynn. Flynn was building a future at the vetch field that nobody else at the time could have predicted. And he was extremely unhappy.

"The Swans have offered him a fresh deal but he hasn't signed anything and is entitled to speak to other clubs from January 1st. The club could take cash up front or gamble on getting more from the tribunal in terms of compensation because Richard is under the age of 24. Richard knows a move to Portsmouth would be a big lift for his full international prospects with Wales. Soccer can be a relatively short career – a bad injury has ended so many dreams too early. I'm telling Richard to be sensible, but also to make the most of any opportunities that come along."

That sort of rings certain alarm bells.

Local lad Wayne Elsey was Duffy’s agent at the time and was pressing for a move. Nobody could have predicted that his five years at Portsmouth would result in one game for the club. In fact he played 22 minutes for Portsmouth. In the five years he spent at Pompey he would be loaned out to Burnley, Coventry, a return on loan to Coventry, and then back to the swans. Martinez didn’t rate him which meant he went back and forwards between Portsmouth and Coventry four times on loan. It has to be said though Duffy had a pretty decent football career. Albeit as a journeyman. His thirteen caps for Wales his high point, albeit in an era when the international side flattered to deceive ?

Richard Duffy at Exeter City

From Portsmouth as a free agent in 2009 he travelled the country from Millwall to Port Vale, Notts County, Eastleigh, Exeter City, and then eventually to Kidsgrove Athletic. The thing is here quite clearly he wast a failure. Duffy played nearly 500 games as a professional, but maybe also as an unwanted player who just had the desire to find somewhere he could possibly belong. It didn’t happen. When it goes wrong, it goes wrong. Duffy admitted driving under the influence in January 2011 after a "silly mistake" following a meal out with friends; he was banned from driving for 12 months and fined £700. He pledged his support to an Exeter based anti-drink-driving campaign and said that "I can only apologise for my actions. It was the first time I have done this and it will be the last. As a role model, especially to young people, this is not an example I should be setting. It just goes to prove that you can never be sure if you take a risk. I hope people reading this will heed the warning."

Football is not anyone’s friend when the player looking for friendship has the desire to just be included as one of the team. A young man looking for a friendly face and reassurance. One managers choice is another managers nightmare. Kenny Jackett brought Duffy back to Swansea, Roberto Martinez just wasn’t interested after Jackett was sacked. Duffy isn’t Connor Roberts, but home town boys travel a similar route sometimes. At 26 Connor Roberts has his financial future sewn up, Duffy never really had that. But when the finances are sorted it’s only then the determination of that person that is key. Two Renato Sanchez memorable moments ruined his career for two years, and yes, whilst he was at Swansea. Football is a fickle master, and no more fickle when there’s a stream of people wanting you to fail.

Connor Roberts has been the usual victim of some pretty awful comments for leaving Swansea, we hope that fuels his desire to kick on and achieve what he wants from the game. A couple of poor decisions can mean you are the fans canon fodder for the rest of the season. A misplaced pass, a moment of madness can mean you are on the merry go round of football misfortune. Roberts has the ability, but only if he is managed right and played where he feels best comfortable. A two and a half million transfer fee means nothing when the managers stake is so low he too is on the edge. Roberts has joined a solid club that potentially will win nothing, and whose achievements are marked by retaining a premier league slot next season. For me that’s not what a player like Connor Roberts should be thinking. As it stands he will become another quality footballer who was produced by the swans and then disappeared.

I know, but that’s how it feels. I just hope he plays out of his skin for Burnley and manages that serious transfer in one or two seasons time that is the making of him.

We have said it already, he won’t have to worry financially if he is clever for the rest of his life. But that’s not the issue. Roberts has maybe seven years at best as a high stock defender. Possibly just four. Many swans fans will be thinking he could have done far better, others that he doesn’t really need to care. He is sorted for life. Richard Duffy is now 36, these days what he does and how he does it is not known. Sadly even after a significant football career there’s few who will remember his name. And maybe that’s the point, what is the level of success you desire ? What do you want to achieve ?

Personally I was a great admirer of Richard Duffy, and yes, I am an admirer of Connor Roberts as well. Both left Swansea City to take on the world, Duffy never hit the heights he wanted, and this is just a personal feeling, Connor Roberts won’t come anywhere near close to that either. Of course we wish him all the best, why not, he’s a magnificent athlete. But many of us see Swansea City as a club in transformation, maybe a few years from another dream escape at the top table of English football.

We have to be honest, finances aside, if you were Connor Roberts today would you be at Burnley, or would you give it one more throw of the dice at the swans ? Recent history and the swans success in the premier league, for me, says stay at Swansea. Bide your time and maybe another major trophy or European journey is just round the corner. I can’t see that happening at Burnley, in fact you would have thought his mate Ollie McBurnnie and his recent experiences would have resonated with Roberts somewhat ?

Whatever the future holds Connor has made his choice, and his bed is pretty much made. I am certain that the vast majority of swans fans will be extremely keen to see him succeed at his new club. Glued to match of the day and supporting his every move. We all want that, and we all want success for him, but at Burnley of all clubs it’s pretty certain he won’t find it. I just hope that swans fans won’t be looking back at Connor Roberts like the few who can remember Richard Duffy do today. Because if that happened it would be a total waste of a young mans career that could have been far, far more productive and successful.

As ever Swansea Independent is determined to bring you thoughtful and well researched football writing on all Swansea City matters.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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tredwyn added 18:53 - Sep 4
No chance. CR is different class. Let's not have sour grapes. He took his chance and it's not his fault the club can't negotiate. They should have got £5 million even in this market. Cash went from Forest to Villa for £10 million a couple of seasons ago and he's no better than Connor.

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