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Osian Roberts Is The Welsh King Of Como . . . And Is Guiding Them Towards Italy’s Best

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By Graham Thomas

Kingmaker Osian Roberts – the coach who has guided the careers of Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira – is finally wearing the crown himself in Italy and loving every minute.

Roberts is currently head coach at Italian club Como and has taken them to fourth place in Serie B, poised for a promotion push over the next few weeks that could see him facing giants like Juventus, Inter and AC Milan next season.

That would be a remarkable step for the 58-year-old Welshman, better known for developing one of the most highly-regarded coaching courses in Europe as well as performing assistant roles for both Wales and Crystal Palace.

“I have had a crash course in Italian football, but I’m engrossed in it and I’m loving every minute,” he says.

“It has been a breath of fresh air for me, the culture, the traditions and the history of Italian football and despite what some people at home keep telling us, there is a football world outside of the Premier League.”

There are worse places to work than Como, too.

On the banks of Lake Como and in the shadow of the Alps, the club’s website declares it is “the beautiful game in the most beautiful location.”

Roberts himself was in the Premier League until a year ago when Palace sacked Vieira and as his number two, Roberts followed the Frenchman through the door.

Their paths had first crossed when Vieira had gained his coaching badges under Roberts, then technical director at the FA of Wales, whose innovative methods attracted household names to Cardiff for the UEFA Pro Licence.

Fellow Arsenal legends Henry and Arteta also sought out the Roberts’ schooling as young coaches – as did Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders – but the man himself has always seen his talent as more than a background mentor.

“I have plenty of experience as a head coach and not just assistant roles. I did over 300 games as head coach of the Wales youth team and I was head coach of what was then the equivalent of an MLS team in the US, New Mexico Chilies, when I was 28 years old.

“So, I know what it means to be the number one. Having said that, football has changed.

“Coaches are much more part of a team at most modern clubs, there is a less of a hierarchy and I seek the advice of all my assistants.”

One of those is yet another Arsenal hero, Cesc Fabregas, the Spaniard who was initially named as head coach at Como until three months ago.

Fabregas, in his first coaching job, then had to reverse roles with Roberts in order to complete his UEFA badges.

“Cesc doesn’t start his Pro Licence until the summer and those are the UEFA regulations, the same here as everywhere,” adds Roberts.

“It’s a unique situation in some ways because I rely heavily on Cesc as he played for Como last season.

“We have a very good relationship and I see myself as staying here for a good while yet, hopefully in Serie A.”

While Fabregas takes his first steps on the coaching ladder, Arteta, Henry and Vieira are all firmly established with Arteta’s current success at Arsenal a source of huge pride for his former teacher.

“Mikel’s impact at Arsenal has been absolutely brilliant. I watched them the other night against Porto and you could see the influence of all the hard work he has done.

“It gives me a lot of pleasure, obviously, seeing young coaches develop and we are still in touch now. Pep Lijnders is another I am still in touch with, so that all gives me an enormous amount of pride.

“But this job with Como is now giving me just as much pride and satisfaction and I’m hoping we can see it through with a unique club.

“We had the Tartan Army here for one game, all in their kilts, so it’s a special club with a unique location and a real pulling power around the world.”

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