Herbie Roberts is considered to be one of Oswestry Town’s greatest ever players.
Born in Oswestry, on the 19th of February 1905, Herbie Roberts first played for Oswestry Town, whilst working as a policeman.
Roberts was from a Welsh speaking family and he made his debut for Town in the Welsh League against Holywell Town in October 1922.
Nicknamed ‘The Policeman Centre Half’ due to earlier employment with Shropshire constabulary, the tall and unassuming right half, was signed by Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal in December 1926 for £200 and turned professional.
He made his debut against Aston Villa on 18 April 1927, although he was not a regular in his first two seasons at the club, playing just five games. He was a prominent player in the 1930s, as a ‘stopper’ centre half in a new formation devised by Herbert Chapman and Charlie Buchan, that was derided by opposition fans as being a negative tactic.
Roberts’ long and successful career with Arsenal came to a sudden end early on in the 1937-38 season, when he broke his leg in a match against Middlesbrough and was subsequently forced to retire. Arsenal won the First Division title for a fifth time that season, but Roberts had only played 13 matches that season, one short of the minimum required for a medal at the time. In all he played 335 matches for Arsenal, scoring 5 goals.
Upon retiring he worked as a trainer to Arsenal’s reserve side. When World War II broke out, Roberts joined the Royal Fusiliers, serving as a lieutenant.
He died whilst on duty at the age of 39 from erysipelas on 19th June 1944, and was buried at Southgate Cemetery, north London. He was the most famous of the nine Arsenal players who died in the war.