Roberts urges Royals to fulfil their potential
Published: 7 Dec 2012 14:300 comments
Royals face a mammoth week ahead with back-to-back away trips to fellow strugglers Southampton tomorrow (3pm ko) and Sunderland next Tuesday night (7.45pm ko).
Defeat in those two crunch games would leave Brian McDermott's men marooned in the drop zone with a massive fight for survival on their hands.
But Roberts has experienced enough highs and lows in a 15-year professional career to know it is a fight Reading can win.
He told the Chronicle: "If you look at elements of our performances over the season so far there is a really good team in there, a team which is much better than our league position suggests at the moment.
"I've played in teams which haven't been good enough [to stay up] but that's not the case here. We have the ability to put a run together.
"In the past Reading start the season slowly then put a run together and it's something we have to look at. Last season, albeit in the Championship, no-one thought we would go on a run like we did.
"Now we're talking Premier League level, but if everything falls into place, we have the mentality to go on a run and that's what we're working towards."
Few players are more qualified to talk on such matters than Roberts. He was relegated from the top flight with West Brom in 2003, but helped Wigan secure promotion to the Premier League in 2005 when a 3-1 victory on the last day of the season ended Reading's hopes of making the play-offs.
And experience has taught him that, as damaging as double defeats to the Saints and the Black Cats might be, there is still time to recover.
"We know these are big games but we're not in the six-point realm yet," said the former Blackburn Rovers striker. "We honestly don't look at it that way. "These next two games are good for us because we can directly affect out rivals. Southampton and Sunderland are battling for their lives just as we are and they have some real quality in their teams.
"We're looking forward to Saturday now. Southampton are a good side and we feel like we've got something in common. We battled for the title last season and won promotion together.
"But they've equipped themselves quite well and we are looking forward to it."
Royals have won just one Premier League game this season - a 2-1 home victory over Everton last month - and Roberts is still searching for his first Premier League goal.
McDermott's side were agonisingly close to clinching a famous victory over Premier League leaders Manchester United last weekend when they went in front twice before crashing to a 4-3 defeat.
And Roberts firmly believes they are not far away from hitting top gear and playing their way out of trouble.
"We must remain confident," he stressed. "We can take some of the offensive play from the Manchester United game into the next week.
"I've never been involved in a game like that before. There were things we should be happy with like our offensive play, but we were not happy with the goals we conceded.
"But we need to focus on the problems we caused a top defence like theirs. They'll be challenging for the title but we were a match for them.
"Yes, there are things we can do better but there are a lot of positives, none more so than the fact we looked really dangerous from set pieces."
And he added: "It seems when we're good going forward we're not closing the door at the back. Then when we keep a clean sheets we can't nick that all-important goal.
"We need to put the two elements together. But we'll keep working hard on the training ground and try and put it right."