Birmingham City defender Mitchell Roberts travelled up to Cumbria on Sunday night ahead of his half-season loan move, and he was straight into introductions and training on Monday as he prepares for the challenge of the next few months.
The 21-year-old has captained the under-23s at St Andrew's, but confirmed that he’s more than ready to take another step out of the comfort zone, with his second loan move away from his parent club.
“I’m just taking it all in at the moment and it’s been good to meet the lads and everyone around the building,” he said. “You’ve got to take it all in your stride, it’s football, things happen fast and I’m looking forward to getting on with training and taking it from there.
“The message from my coaches is for me to get here and smash it, basically. It’s only going to benefit everybody if I come here and do well and play games. The main aim now is to play games, win matches and do as well as I can.
“Birmingham is obviously my club, I’ve been there since I was 11, so it would be easy for me to be comfortable in and around where I live and stuff like that, but speaking to the gaffer I knew it was a no-brainer to come here.
“At the age I am now I need to get games and get some good football under my belt. I think I’m ready to play men’s football now, I had a little moan spell last season, and I’m excited to get going here.”
Speaking more about the loan spell at Harrogate, he told us: “I think it means I come here with more experience and feeling more prepared.
“Last season I was going into it kind of in the dark, wondering what the men’s set-up was all about, because I hadn’t played for Birmingham’s first-team either. I was like a young player going into a new world.
“I take the experiences I learned from Harrogate and I have been around the first-team this season at Birmingham, so I’m definitely more equipped for coming here. I know what it’s about so I’ve just got to go and do it now.
“In the under-23 games there’s still physicality, and things like that, but every game becomes almost like a battle in men’s football. You’re fighting for three points that really matter whereas the 23s can almost be more about developing payers.
“That’s fine for that level, but you quickly realise that getting three points every week has to be the main thing. You go into the dressing room and you know it’s the only goal. It doesn’t matter what you do as an individual, it’s about winning the game.
“As a younger player if you lose but you play well you can take things from it, but in the first-team there’s an intensity around everything you do. You’re not boys any more, it’s physical and you have to compete.”
Having found about the move, we wondered what the factors were that had brought him up the M6.
“I’ve seen some great things about the club, to be fair,” he commented. “I watched the game on Saturday and the fans were looking good, they sounded great, but the main thing that brought me here was the manager.
“When you go out on loan you want to have the best experience possible, and that’s only by winning games but also by developing and learning more. He told me that he really wants to work with me and help me develop as a player, so that’s what swung it for me.
“I know I’ll have to fight to get in the team, but that’s football. Even in 23s football there’s that same competition. I’m coming here to compete, and I’m ready for that.”
So what type of player are we going to see?
“When I’m playing at left-back I like to get on the overlap and get forward,” he explained. “Hopefully I can get some good end product in with assists, and maybe a few goals, if I do play.
“I’ve had a few games at centre back as well, I like defending, so I bring that when I play, whatever position it is. I just want to help the team as much as possible.
“I want to come here and do well so Birmingham see what I’m capable of, but plans don’t always go to plan and I’ll work hard to do that.
“I think it’s important to come in and be confident and give everything to show what I’m about in training. My long-term plan is to play at Birmingham, but I’ve almost put that to the back of my mind so I can focus on what I can do every day to improve as a player and help Carlisle.
“I’m a Carlisle player for the next few months, and I’ve got to come here and play well to enable me to go forward.”
His EFL debut has already been chalked off, of course, courtesy of that loan spell in North Yorkshire last season.
“When I made my debut for Harrogate I was nervous, but I was so excited at the same time,” he admitted. “It was similar to when I made my debut for Birmingham, I think you’re always going to have nerves, and I’ll probably have a few when I’m here as well.
“You’re in a new environment and you want to impress the manager and the other players. I’m excited, I love playing football, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity.
“Making my Birmingham debut [he’s featured in the Carabao Cup against Fulham and in the Championship against Reading this season] was definitely a ‘wow’ moment.
“I’ve been there since I was 11 so it was always a dream. When you’re coming through the academy you set yourself little goals along the way, but the big one is to walk out at St Andrew’s and play in front of the fans.
“I played in the Carabao Cup, which was great, but I was hungry to play in the league. I got the opportunity, and to walk out and start a Championship game was definitely a dream come true, and something I’m hungry to get more of.”
“It was definitely surreal, but when you’re walking down the tunnel you’re just thinking about the game, not about what’s happening,” he continued. “It’s hard to take it in when it’s happening because there’s so much to think about and so much adrenaline.
“I think it wasn’t until a few weeks later when it sunk in. I’ve got my shirt from the game in a frame at my parents’ house. When I look at it I just think about being a little kid and dreaming about having a shirt on the wall, and I achieved it.
“It did make it even more special that I’ve been at the club since I was young. I don’t think it would have been the same if I was a player coming in from somewhere else. I’ve watched all the first-team games since I was young, looking at the players and seeing what I needed to do to improve, so to end up on that pitch was just crazy.
“It was a reward for the hard work myself and my family have put in. My family have made so many sacrifices, taking me to training and making sure everything off the pitch was right.
“There’s a lot of staff at Birmingham who have helped me along the way, not just the coaches but the other staff behind the scenes have helped me as a person when things haven’t been going right.
“There’s so much work from so many people, it must have felt like an achievement for them as well because of how much they’ve helped me from when I was a young boy.
“It’s great to think about all of that and look back on it, but that achievement has gone now and I know I need to keep working hard to make sure I get more of those experiences. It’s just made me hungrier going forward.”
And going forward in this case is the next four months in Cumbria and the challenge of bedding into life in League Two.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the lads already and they’ve said that as long as you give your all for the club then the fans will take to you,” he said. “I’ll go out there and show that I’m a hard worker, then bring my technical ability to go with that.
“I think it’s good to come into a club and go straight into training and games. It’s moving very quickly with the game coming up tomorrow night, but it’s a good thing.
“I came up last night [Sunday] and I was straight in to sign everything then do the pictures before training. I’m just taking everything in my stride, I’ve been in football long enough to know you’ve just got to get on with it.
“There’s a lot of games coming up so if not tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be out there very soon to show the fans what I’ve got.
“My aims for the next few months are just to play football and do well. Not only myself, but the club, we want to do as well as possible and pick up as many points as we can.
“I think it will be good for me to learn off the manager and the senior players here. I’m looking forward to committing to being a player here for the next few months, and I just want to go on and thrive.”
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