Iwan Roberts only spent 12 months at Wolves, and he only scored 12 goals.

But mention his name to any Wolves fan of mid-thirties or older and you will probably see the same reaction.

The eyes will widen, the grin will break out, and a glorious recollection will return.

One or two may even break into song.


Astonishingly, it is 25 years next week since Roberts became the first Wolves player to notch a hat trick at The Hawthorns – and first in the fixture since Terry Wharton in 1963 – on the most perfect of Sunday afternoons down the A41.

Even more astonishingly, and there have been 11 attempts since, that 4-2 win is the last time Wolves tasted victory on enemy turf.

No wonder fans, despite a bit of a fallout with Roberts in the spell after he departed, still go a little misty-eyed at the memory now of the big Welshman’s impact.

The feeling is mutual.

“Just where has that 25 years gone?” Roberts asks.

“Do I remember it? Like it was yesterday.

“A red hot Sunday afternoon, live on the telly, big local derby, and I score a hat trick.

“I always seemed to do o-k at the Hawthorns, and also in derby games, as my first ever hat trick came for Leicester against Derby.

“I just had a feeling about that day with Wolves, that things might go well, but never did I believe I would score a hat trick.

“I do get reminded of it a lot, and will always be happy to talk about it, and I just can’t believe it’s the last time Wolves won there as it’s been such a long, long time.”

Roberts, now 53, works for BBC Wales as a pundit covering both Cardiff and Swansea and the Welsh national team, including this week’s World Cup qualifiers.

It all started however at Watford, Wolves’ opponents this Saturday, and yet if events had taken a different turn the powerful striker might just have launched his career at Molineux.

A family friend who had a holiday home in the North Wales village five miles from Barmouth where Roberts grew up, had links with Wolves, and arranged for the then 15-year-old to spend a month on trial.

It was when Tommy Docherty was manager, and Roberts recalls a very young Tim Flowers in goal, but it was perhaps a case of right club, wrong time, some 13 years before he did indeed sign for Wolves.

“I didn’t enjoy it to be honest, it was the first time I had spent any length of time away from home and I was homesick,” he admits.

“The other lads were great but I never settled and I just wasn’t sure if it was an avenue I wanted to go down.”

Fortunately Roberts didn’t completely dismiss his footballing dream, and would go on to enjoy a trial with Manchester United and play a couple of youth games for Leeds United.

At the time, having spent his formative years as part of a Welsh-speaking family in a Welsh-speaking village, he rarely spoke English which perhaps affected his efforts to settle in when finding a club.

But when Watford spotted him playing for Wales Under-18s, they had a youth coach in Tom Walley, a Welsh speaker and former Welsh international, and another young Welsh striker in Malcolm Allen whom Roberts knew from the local leagues.

“The Welsh speaking thing wasn’t a huge problem but it probably made a difference and so to have Tom and Malcolm there did help me settle, especially given it was four-and-a-half hours away from home,” Roberts explains.

“And I have so much to thank Watford Football Club for, as I started out on my career.

“It was such a great start for a young lad who was wet behind the ears and not just from a footballing perspective and becoming a professional footballer but how to conduct myself off the pitch as well.

“There was no better teacher in that respect than Graham Taylor and he was brilliant for me and that was just as important a lesson I learned in my early days as anything I did on the pitch.”

Roberts made 83 first team appearances for Watford – over a third of which came from the bench – and scored 12 goals, the first of which was certainly another from the collection to savour.

It came against Manchester United as Roberts was brought on at half time to partner Luther Blissett up front, and went on to despatch the winning goal past later Wolves youth team coach, Chris Turner.

“I’m a Liverpool fan as well, so it was extra special,” he adds with a laugh, before suggesting, tongue-in-cheek, that the goal may just have played a major role in United’s history.

“I scored that winner and then a few weeks after they lost to Southampton and ‘Big Ron’ (Atkinson) was sacked to pave the way for Alex Ferguson to come in.

“So maybe there might be a little bit of thanks coming my way for all the success they had in the years that followed!”

For Roberts, those future years were to be away from Watford as Colin Lee, whom he would later work with when assistant to Mark McGhee at Wolves, had a short spell in charge at Vicarage Road and the two didn’t really see eye to eye.

“I wasn’t going to play, and by now I was 21 and at an age where I needed to kick start my career,” Roberts recalls.

“Like many young players coming through, things can often go down different paths and you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.”

That certainly happened at Huddersfield albeit after a difficult start joining for a club record fee and replacing a legendary figure in Craig Maskell.

“It was like the fans were expecting Maradona, and instead they got Mad Donna,” laughs Roberts.

Helped perhaps by working with Terriers first team coach Peter Withe, and the signing of another legendary frontman in Frank Stapleton, the next club post-war record Roberts chalked up was the number of goals – 34 – he notched in his second full season.

Ultimately, and not for the last time in his career, Roberts moved on after three-and-a-half years in League One because he was a lucrative target whose sale could help restructure the squad for the manager, in this case Neil Warnock.

Notts County, Coventry and Leicester were keen, and Roberts travelled for talks with all, but the lure of the Foxes and a meeting with boss Brian Little was all he needed to put pen to paper at Filbert Street.

His debut? Well that came against Wolves, and, 2-0 down at half time thanks to a brace from a certain Steve Bull, Roberts responded in kind after the break to secure his team a point.

“Bully did what he always did by scoring against Leicester and we were booed off at half time with me thinking what on earth I had signed for,” he says.

“We came out after the break and my first of the two goals was probably the best header I ever scored, but after the second I really should have got my hat trick.

“I slid in and was inside the six yard box but ballooned the ball over the bar, which almost seemed impossible to do.

“Otherwise I would have walked away with the matchball and an even better debut!”

He did of course get that hat trick against Derby, and played a big goalscoring part in two promotion seasons either side of a Premier League relegation, before moving on prior to another tilt at the top flight after another successful campaign.

“That is probably the biggest regret I have, leaving Leicester when I did,” Roberts reveals.

“I left because of something someone high up in the club had said and I let that affect me and probably cut my nose off to spite my face.

“But at the same time I had always known what a big club Wolves was from playing at Molineux with their fantastic support and fantastic stadium.

“I had looked at the squad of players Mark (McGhee) had to work with and I knew they had probably underachieved for a few years with the money that had been spent and the players that they had.

“I thought it was another great chance for me to once again try and get promoted into the Premier League.”

With the £1.3million move completed, Roberts was tasked with trying to help refresh a team which had struggled the previous year to finish in 20thin the Championship.

It is fair to say he didn’t get off to the same explosive start as he had at Leicester – failing to trouble the scorers in his first seven appearances – but opened his account in a 1-1 draw at Oxford on the midweek of the trip to The Hawthorns.

“One thing I really have to thank the Wolves fans for is how patient they were during those first few games,” says Roberts.

“The team were still doing o-k, Bully was scoring goals which took the pressure off, but not once did those fans turn on me in those first few games.

“Then I got off the mark down at the Manor Ground, and we moved onto the big one at Albion.”

Time then to wallow in the delight of that special afternoon when Wolves were well and truly at their Sunday best.

Not least as there hasn’t been any real chance for similar wallowing since!

A few weeks ago this column featured a Bull hat trick at Grimsby on the season’s opening day when all three goals were set by Steve Froggatt.

If assists were ‘a thing’ in those days, Froggatt’s numbers would have been off the charts given he was at it again at the Hawthorns, setting up all of the Roberts’ treble as well as delivering the long throw which was flicked on for Bull to prod home in front of the Brummie Road for his fourth and final goal against his former club.

Wolves were three-up inside 28 minutes and, although Ian Hamilton narrowed the advantage just before half time, Roberts’ third in the second half effectively put the game to bed prior to Bob Taylor grabbing Albion’s second.

What a moment, and what a feeling, but also in Roberts’ eyes a reflection of just what that Wolves team could do when everything clicked into place.

“Those first two goals were carbon copies with Froggy’s great deliveries from corners and then he put such a great ball in for the third,” he reports.

“Fortunately I think Bully put the defender off and it came through to me, I made a good contact and all hell broke loose!

“Completing a hat trick in such a big game in front of the away end when I knew how important it was for those fans, well, it’s the best feeling ever.

“When you see that ball cross the white line and the noise as it hits the net, if you could bottle that feeling you would make a fortune.

“It was such a great performance but we had the capability to do that to teams on our day.

“We had Froggy down the left hand side, Ozzy (Simon Osborn) who couldn’t half pick a pass in midfield, Jinky (James) Smith who was a magnificent right back, and of course Bully up front.

“Stevie Corica was a player Wolves sadly didn’t see the best of and if fans had seen how he had performed at Leicester and he had recreated that they would have fallen in love with him.

“We had such a good side, and a good squad, and how that group never got promoted god only knows.

“Maybe it was pressure, expectation, it’s difficult to say, but we were more than capable of going anywhere and putting on a performance like that and it was just a bonus to produce it on that Sunday afternoon at The Hawthorns.”

Just for good measure Roberts also notched in the return at Molineux, joining Dean Richards on the ‘header’ scoresheet in a 2-0 win, along with other highlights such as a brace in a 3-0 victory against Manchester City and late goals to secure a point and three respectively against Barnsley and Norwich.

Agonisingly though, as was the case in a more unwanted hat trick of successive Championship play-off disappointments, Wolves’ season ended at the semi-final stage, to Crystal Palace.

There followed the infamous ‘Golden Tit’ interview given by Sir Jack Hayward where the club’s owner lamented the amount of money he had splashed out without success and, at that stage unbeknown to Roberts who was holidaying in Australia, he was one who would become a part of McGhee’s need to bring in revenue to reshape his squad.

“I’m not sure how many people know this but I really didn’t want to leave Wolves,” he explains.

“I’d had a year there and I understood what a big club it is, and it was also as close to my parents’ house as anywhere I had played which was also important as it was easier for them to come and watch.

“It was similar to the Huddersfield situation where the club needed to sell because after missing out in the play-offs and all the money that had been spent Sir Jack had said he wasn’t going to carry on dipping into his pockets.

“But I was more than happy at Wolves and had come back from my summer holidays ready and raring to go.

“Then the day before pre-season started I went in to see Mark and the bombshell was dropped that they had accepted an offer from Norwich for me.

“He did tell me I didn’t have to sign and could go and have a look and if it wasn’t for me I could come back and start on an even keel like everyone else.

“But when a club accepts an offer for you, it’s pretty much clear that your future lies elsewhere.

“It’s a fairly big sign that you are no longer really needed there and that it is time to move on.”

And so move on Roberts did, to Norwich, where he spent seven seasons and added considerably to his goal tally, another 97 to a total which would eventually reach a hugely impressive 239.

A regular top scorer at Carrow Road, forging a fearsome strike partnership with Craig Bellamy, he would also become captain as well as scoring in the play-off final defeat to Birmingham City after Norwich inflicted another dose of semi-final misery on Wolves.

He was also a key figure as the Canaries finally flew up to the Premier League in 2003/04, but that Championship-winning season was to be his last with the club, then being released moving on to represent Gillingham and Cambridge before hanging up his boots.

Roberts’ spell with Gillingham also included the role of player/coach, and even caretaker manager, but as he considered life after playing, it was always going to go in a different direction.

“I had done my coaching badges but I was never going to be as passionate about coaching as you needed to be to go down that route,” says Roberts.

“I am a firm believer that if you are going to do something you have got to really want to do it, to enjoy doing it and put 100 per cent into it.”

That was certainly Roberts during his playing career, which also saw him land 17 international caps despite competition from the likes of Rush, Hughes and Saunders, and it is also Roberts now, in his media role with BBC Wales.

“Having not really enjoyed that coaching experience I got a chance to go into the BBC at Cardiff and the media side of things just took off from there,” he explains.

“I love it, and it’s the best coaching course you could ever go on.

“You get to watch different teams, with different formations, different managers, seeing how they react in different situations.

“I get to travel all over the country, largely watching Cardiff or Swansea, and cover every Welsh game, which has included two great trips to European Championships.

“I wouldn’t swap it for the world, or any coaching job, because that just wasn’t going to be me, and this is something I really enjoy and can put everything into.”

Roberts, who still lives in Norwich, can at least look on proudly as four of his former clubs – Norwich, Wolves, Leicester and Watford – are gracing the Premier League even though his day job with Swansea and Cardiff mean he doesn’t get to see them too often.

He is also now taking part in an important dementia study run by Dr Michael Grey from the University of East Anglia, where he takes a series of tests every few months to check his brain function and whether there are even the slightest of changes.

“We know how many former players have been affected by dementia and being a big centre forward who used his head a lot, then getting involved in this sort of study and receiving advice from an expert is something that I’d be foolish not to take up,” says Roberts.

“I am a great believer that prevention is better than cure, and while I know you can’t cure dementia or early onset dementia, if you catch it early then there are at least certain steps you can take.”

A hugely cheerful and affable character, Roberts is a very popular member of the footballing media circuit, yet, while he was playing, those personal qualities certainly didn’t mask a strong and intense desire to win, whatever it took, and however much he needed to use his physical qualities as a tough centre forward.

And it is probably a combination of all of those attributes that explain both why Roberts remains so popular among Wolves fans for his derby day heroics now, but why that wasn’t always the case while he was still playing.

In his book, written several years after moving on from Molineux, Roberts was particularly critical of a section of the Wolves fanbase, and here, he explains why.

“It was a coincidence that while I made my Leicester debut against Wolves, my Norwich debut was also against Wolves.

“And this time a certain Robbie Keane stole the headlines with a brace on his debut!

“I had a really bad game, and Wolves fans, as they always did, travelled in their thousands so there must have been over 3,000 at Carrow Road.

“They absolutely slaughtered me, and that hurt.

“I wasn’t expecting the red carpet treatment of course, I’d only been at Wolves for 12 months, but I hadn’t wanted to leave and I did think those goals against the Baggies might have got me a slightly better reception!

“That is football, and I understand it, but every time I went back to Wolves with Norwich I got absolutely slaughtered.

“I don’t think it was anything to do with the 12 months I was there, I felt that the fans really took to me, and I will always be thankful that they didn’t criticise during those early games when I didn’t score.

“So yes, I was disappointed at the time, but I think we have all moved on and now, I follow a lot of Wolves fans on social media and vice versa and there is nothing but love.”

Time is indeed a great healer, and there is certainly that affiliation towards Roberts for his derby day heroics, to the extent that any problems he has with parking at Molineux when travelling on media duties are usually solved by being recognised – and waved through!

And so, next Wednesday, 25 years on, the clips from that magical afternoon will be shared once again, Roberts will enjoy watching and digesting them just as much as he has throughout the rest of the previous quarter century, and one of those fantastic footballing Wolves awaydays from recent history will continue to endure.

“When people post anything on social media I will always have a look, and it still gives me a massive buzz,” he says.

“When that third one hits the back of the net, even when I see it now, it still makes the hairs on the back of my net stand up.

“I was only at Wolves for 12 months, and I only scored 12 goals, but it’s nice to think I contributed that day to a really happy experience for all the fans.

“Even though I didn’t score as many as I would have liked, and wasn’t at the club for as long as I would have liked, hopefully the fans appreciated what I did, and certainly those two games against the Baggies!”