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Tyler Roberts: 'I hope Bulgaria fans have learned their lesson'

Tyler Roberts: 'I hope Bulgaria fans have learned their lesson'
© Reuters
England's victory in Sofia last October was stopped twice because of racist chants.

Wales striker Tyler Roberts hopes Bulgaria fans have learned their lesson and there will be no repeat of the shameful scenes when England's black players were racially abused in Sofia.

England's 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying victory last October was overshadowed as racist chants saw the game stopped twice and officials threaten to abandon the match.

The fall-out saw Bulgaria ordered to play one game behind closed doors, with a further match suspended for two years.

Bulgaria v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group A – Vasil Levski National Stadium
England's Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last October was halted twice following racist chanting from home fans (Nick Potts/PA)

Despite the presence of coronavirus in Bulgaria – an emergency epidemic situation has been extended in the Balkans state until November 30 – a crowd of up to 8,500 could be in attendance at Sofia's Vasil Levski National Stadium on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't say I've got concerns (going there)," Leeds striker Roberts said ahead of the Nations League Group B4 clash.

"Hopefully there are restrictions and things put in place to help prevent that type of thing.

"It's something that unfortunately still creeps into the game here and there, but I've got the right people around me to deal with it if that situation occurs.

Bulgaria v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group A – Vasil Levski National Stadium
Bulgaria fans' racist chanting against England last October saw the Bulgarian Football Union punished bu UEFA (Nick Potts/PA)

"In all types of football – club and country – there are still steps that need to be made and things that need to happen.

"Obviously the Black Lives Matter movement and stuff like that has helped it, but I still feel like it's a bit away from where it needs to be.

"No matter what age you are you hope that this doesn't happen, no matter what colour you are. I want to be a part of trying to help and improve it, but at the same time there are also people higher up who need to be at the front of that."

UEFA has confirmed anti-racism messages will be on display around the stadium in Sofia as well as on shirts.

The eight-times capped Roberts has often been used in a wide or deeper role for club and country.

But the 21-year-old considers himself a "versatile number nine" and is set to lead the Wales attack against Bulgaria with Hal Robson-Kanu and Kieffer Moore out injured.

"All my life I have been a striker and number nine but I have adapted," Roberts said.

"I don't mind playing as a number 10, attacking midfielder or out wide. But ultimately I see myself as a versatile number nine.

"Kieffer is doing amazing and is good at what he does. But as a player there is always competition, I would love to be the Wales number nine and get the opportunity to prove I can be that player."

Roberts has featured in all of Leeds' four Premier League games following promotion from the Championship, starting the last two against Sheffield United and Manchester City.

Marcelo Bielsa File Photo
Tyler Roberts has flourished under Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa and featured in every one of the club's four Premier League games this season (John Walton/PA)

He said: "It's been a great experience. Everyone in the Premier League is technically high at a very high level and you have to be bang at it every time you step on the pitch.

"The manager (Marcelo Bielsa) has made me understand the game at a completely different level.

"I have matured since he has been at the club, knowing how the game needs to be played.

"It has been put into me as a player and it has changed me as a person, and people at Wales would realise that."


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Wales manager Ryan Giggs pictured in September 2020
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