Them and us – Jack Roberts (Wigan Athletic and Liverpool)

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Today we go back into the mists of time to introduce a player who had a bit part to play for Wednesday evenings visitors but who was a major influence in the success of Wigan Athletic as a fledgling non league team way back in 1934/35.

Jack ‘Nipper’ Roberts was born in Blundellsands, Liverpool on 15th March 1910.   He was a tricky inside forward and signed for Liverpool from  Southport in May 1933 after playing his trade at Marine, Orrell, Northern Nomads and Blundellsands FC as well as the Hiag Avenue outfit.  His contribution to the Liverpool story was just a single appearance when he was selected to replace Sam English for a 1-1 draw against Stoke City at Anfield on September 4th 1933.

Wigan Athletic manager Charlie Spencer snapped Jack up from Liverpool in the summer of 1934 and he formed a formidable partnership with Georgie Scott as Latics won the Cheshire League championship for the second time in what was only their third season in existence.  He made 42 league appearances and rattled home 46 goals as the Reds (as Latics were called in those days) lost on just six occasions in the league, all away from home.

In addition he netted six times in a FA Cup run that saw Latics beat Torquay United 3-2 at home (Roberts 2, Scott), before losing 1-4 (Roberts) at Millwall in the third round of the competition.

The following 1935/36 season was Jack’s last at the club and he had scored 8 goals in fifteen league appearances, before he was snapped up by Port Vale manager Tom Halford, for a ‘large’ transfer fee in December 1935.

His career in Burslem consisted of 118 league appearances during which he scored 74 times, before the outbreak of the Second World War ended his career.

After a short spell guesting for Wrexham, he was enlisted into the Irish Guards where it must be said, that despite a sporting career that saw him play once for England in an amateur game, along with a spell as a baseball player for England, he embarked on the greatest achievement of his life.

He was captured in action in Tunisia after which he was placed in a prisoner of War camp.  Amazingly Jack escaped, achieving his freedom by walking for 400 miles with a broken neck!

‘Nipper’ passed away on 1st June 1985.


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