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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 11:04 GMT
Jason Roberts column
Wigan striker Jason Roberts
By Jason Roberts
Wigan striker

With my background, I guess I was always destined to become a professional footballer.

Three of my uncles - Cyrille Regis, David Regis and Otis Roberts - were professionals and they all had an influence on me when I was young.

Cyrille Regis
Jason Roberts' uncle, Cyrille Regis, was a huge star for West Brom
I didn't have posters of sports stars on my bedroom wall. I had my footballing heroes at home.

It was a unique position to be in.

I was well into my football and I guess I was quite good, although I was very short and used to play on the left wing.

Despite my height, I'd like to think I stood out.

Mind you, there was a lot of competition at my school - Jody Morris and Clinton Morrison were there, so it would be fair to say we had a decent team. They were younger than me but we all used to play for the sixth form - even when I was in the third year.

I guess I was known as Cyrille's nephew, although people rarely came up to me and asked me and I'm not sure that many people knew.

I didn't need an inspirational teacher or coach at school. I had my uncles.

To be able to go back to my grandparents or my parents' house and see my uncles was a big thing for me.

Growing up with them made me believe I could match what they had done.

Uncle Otis was a huge influence. Every day he would take me to the artificial pitch in Stonebridge in north-west London where I'd play with his friends.

After Chelsea turned me down, I thought I'd react by proving how good I was
I think he got in a few altercations because his friends kept on kicking me! They were booting me up in the air because I was quite young and quite cocky.

I took a few kickings on that pitch. But it's a famous place. So many good players have played there, it's amazing. And quite a few of them have taken a kicking there.

Some of my most vivid memories come from when I was playing for a team called Parkfield.

I was there from under-11s until under-14s and that was a really enjoyable time.

I was just playing football and enjoying it with no pressure - although some games felt like life or death at the time!

I learnt a lot there and I went on to play in the youth team for Chelsea. Those memories are not so good - I didn't get a YTS contract at Stamford Bridge and that kind of knocked the stuffing out of me a little bit.

I was 16 and it was crushing because I only wanted to be a footballer.

Not making the grade at that age is hard. You get called into the office and you get told. It really knocked me for six at the time.

I stopped playing football for more than a year after that.

Then my Uncle Cyrille got me a trial at Hayes, I started playing for their youth team and it all went from there.

That was when my whole life turned around.

I was working for a company called JAG-UFS when I was with Hayes and made friends there who I still speak to now.

It was an enjoyable time, I don't look back and think 'oh gosh I was packing boxes' or whatever. But things started to go well and after I went full-time at Hayes I got a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was a shame to leave my workmates. But I also felt vindicated, because I always thought I was a good player.

After Chelsea turned me down, I thought I'd react by proving how good I was.

Luckily enough I got an opportunity to play professionally again - and now I'm looking at my next five games which, form and injuries permitting, will be against Spurs, Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.

It was tough to get here - but things have worked out pretty well.

  • Read Jason Roberts' midweek column on the BBC Sport website every week

    Jason Roberts columns


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