Celtic were never close to signing Patrick Roberts in the summer, but my goodness how the winger could’ve done with a move back to Scotland.
Roberts signed for Middlesbrough on a season-long loan back in October as he returned to the venue where he managed 11 appearances – a run of football he hadn’t had since his Celtic days several years ago.
However, Roberts’ return to the Championship has turned sour quickly. The winger has only started three of Middlesbrough’s first 10 games this season and his frustration at having a lack of minutes under his belt is starting to show.
Manager Neil Warnock said last week when speaking to Teeside Live: “Patrick is frustrated because he’s not getting a game, and quite rightly so. But I’m sure in the next nine games there will be plenty of chances for him to get an opportunity.”
Roberts was again an unused sub at the weekend against Huddersfield, but featured several days ago against Derby. Warnock didn’t sound too impressed with him, saying to Teeside Live: “He did alright, he tired.”
Roberts needed Celtic Park to reinvigorate him
Roberts’ career is stagnating fast, and you do wonder whether the move to Middlesbrough was the right choice for him given how cut-throat opportunities are in the Championship these days.
The Manchester City winger hasn’t played regular football since the 2017/18 campaign when he was on loan at Parkhead, although he was used a bit more regularly at Girona one year later. And it’s clear he could do with an environment where the club will be both patient with him and adore him. That’s what he would’ve gotten had he signed on with us this season.
Make no mistake, Roberts is still ridiculously talented. You don’t lose the talent he has. But he hasn’t found anyone who’s really given him a run of consistent games to show what he’s all about. Expecting Roberts to turn it on by playing him once every three games isn’t going to do it, you have to stick with a player as mercurial as him on the ball.
Spells at Girona, Norwich, and now Middlesbrough haven’t quite worked out how he would’ve liked, and you do wonder if we missed a trick not trying to get him going again. After all, he would’ve gotten a big run of games at Celtic this season had we moved for him.
With James Forrest injured for the long-term, we’ve had no alternative right-winger to replace him with. That’s where Roberts thrives, and given he would’ve been getting regular minutes, he could’ve gotten himself up to speed a lot quicker in Glasgow than he’s doing in the Championship.
Of course, there wasn’t any reported interest at least from Celtic in his services, but we could’ve done with him just as he could’ve done with us. With a contract at City that’s up at the end of 2022, a cut-price deal next summer wouldn’t be the worst thing.
Sure, you can argue that given the ongoing crisis at Parkhead, Celtic would’ve been a toxic atmosphere this season. However, if truth be told, he could’ve turned some of these disappointing results into wins, and would’ve been a great option to have for some inspiration against Ross County yesterday.
Hopefully, however, Roberts can find his feet again and make an impact in the Championship. He’s far too good a talent to continue standing still like this.