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Osian Roberts ‘proud’ of Como promotion but will step aside for Cesc Fabregas

15 May 2024 4 minute read
Osian Roberts during his time at Crystal Palace(Credit: PA)

Osian Roberts has achieved hero status in Como after winning promotion to Serie A but has no qualms stepping back for Cesc Fabregas to resume his managerial career.

The Welshman masterminded Como’s return to the top flight of Italian football after a 21-year absence last Friday, and the town famous for its lake, tourism and being the home of Hollywood actor George Clooney partied long in to the night.

Roberts’ great friend Ian Rush, the former Liverpool and Wales striker, has already been in touch over plans to watch his old team play Como next season.

But Roberts will not be in the dugout for games against Juventus, neighbours AC Milan and Inter Milan and Roma amid the glitz and glamour of Serie A.

For Roberts will take up the role of Como’s head of development as Fabregas resumes managerial responsibilities that were put on hold for the Spaniard to obtain the necessary UEFA coaching badges.

Stood down

The former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea midfielder – also a part-owner at Como – stood down in December, paving the way for Roberts to secure promotion as runners-up to champions Parma.

“Cesc became manager earlier than anticipated after signing a playing contract at the club,” Roberts told the PA news agency.

“But the rule is you must have UEFA’s pro licence – or at least have started the course – to manage here and Cesc has had to do that.

“The agreement was always for Cesc to return as manager next season and that will happen.

“There was a lot of pressure involved because for the first two or three months we were performing in a way that we would not be pushing for the play-offs.

“You know only one man would be sacked – and that would be me – but we got the job done and it’s been a great experience to lead this team in to Serie A.

“I mentioned the great John Charles in my first press conference here and I’m very proud as another Welshman that I have managed to do that.”

Thierry Henry

Roberts owed his opportunity in Italy to Thierry Henry, another Como shareholder who knew him well from studying for his coaching badges under the guidance of the Football Association of Wales.

The 58-year-old ran the elite course as FAW technical director – a position he held for 12 years until 2019 – and helped produce top coaches such as Mikel Arteta, Roberto Martinez and Patrick Vieira.

It was a role he combined with being Wales assistant manager for four years, during which time Chris Coleman’s side reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Roberts was appointed technical director of the Moroccan Football Federation in 2019 before becoming Vieira’s assistant at Crystal Palace two years later.

“I had a couple of offers to manage clubs in the EFL after Palace,” said Roberts, who left Selhurst Park following Vieira’s dismissal in March 2023.

“But it did not excite me and I didn’t want to take a job for the sake of it. I wanted to take time out to reflect and spend some family time.

“I would have been energised and motivated if I’d stayed at Palace, but my plan was to take a year out and then see what was out there.”

Como has presented Roberts with what he sees as a “unique” opportunity and the ambition to restore past glories since the club last graced the top flight during the 2002-03 season.

Fourth tier

The club went bankrupt twice and ended up in Serie D, the non-professional fourth tier, before Indonesian tobacco giants Djarum bought them in 2019.

Plans are in the pipeline to expand their modest 8,000 Stadio Comunale Giuseppe Sinigaglia home, while Como’s marketing and community engagement initiatives are admired within Italian football

On his new role, Roberts said: “It’s a very broad remit. It’s about developing the club and producing that pathway for players to go in to the first team.

“I’ve been a technical director with two international federations, head coach and an older assistant coach and mentor – I’ve floated between the three roles.

“Who knows – there may be a head coach role somewhere in the future, but I’m privileged to do this job and be part of this project.”

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