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Weighting game

STEVE ROBERTS is determined to do more than put flesh on the bones of his blossoming reputation.

STEVE ROBERTS is determined to do more than put flesh on the bones of his blossoming reputation. He wants to add muscle, as well.

The Wrexham centre-back has won the approval of Denis Smith for the cultured and quickly-maturing displays which have turned him from fringe player into a regular first-team component, inspiring the Racecourse boss to hail him as a future Premiership player.

But Dragons manager Smith, himself a topflight defender in a long career with Stoke City, has ordered Roberts to undertake a specially-formulated weight-lifting programme to fill out the tall frame beneath the 21-year-old's clothes hanger shoulders.

"I don't put a guy who's built like a brick outhouse to do a load of weights," said Smith.

"Everything is designed to meet the needs of the individual. In Steve's case, I believe he needs bulking up and that's something we are working on.

"Physically he needs to fill out but he's got good shoulders on him and given time he should be a good size."

Roberts, a Wales Youth and under-21 international, made his debut in October 1998 as an 18-year-old and has now established himself as a first-choice defender.

And Smith is confident that the Wrexham-born player can progress into a successful Premiership performer.

He said: "I have been very pleased with him. I looked at videos of him when I first came and was not over-impressed but he has improved since I've worked with him.

"He could be a very good centre-back. Maybe he was a bit nervous with a new manager coming in. If he made a mistake I wasn't sure where he would go, but now he just gets on with it, whatever happens.

"When I was at Oxford I worked with Phil Gilchrist, Matt Elliott and Darren Purse. Elliott and Gilchrist went on to play in the Premiership (with Leicester) while Purse, at Birmingham City, has been linked with a move to the Premiership.

"They all had different things in their game which Steve hasn't got. And Steve has got things in his game that they hadn't got. But he's as good at the same age as they were."

Roberts missed last weekend's crucial 3-2 win over Peterborough through suspension but is pencilled in to return as the Dragons aim to extend a sequence of three games unbeaten at home to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Wrexham, fourth from bottom, are desperate for points to drag themselves out of the relegation mire at the foot of the second division.

And Smith could be handed a selection headache, with defender Jim Whitley expected to throw off a groin strain in time for the visit of Paul Jewell's Lancashire visitors, while Lee Trundle and Robin Gibson (both ankle) should return.

Darren Ferguson, meanwhile, has been slapped with a one-match ban after a disrepute charge following his sending off against Colchester in August last year.

The suspension rules Ferguson out of Wrexham's trip to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday week.

But the midfielder, 30 this Saturday, believes the last-minute penalty converted by Hector Sam to grab victory at London Road can turn the Dragons' season around and help them beat the drop.

He said: "We got a break with that late penalty and you need a little luck. You look for that and think it could be a turning point for us.

"Wigan will be a hard game but we look as if we are going to score a lot of goals with our style of play and hopefully we can carry on our recent run."


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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