Roles reflects on beneficial season with Cambridge United
Wed 17 June 2020, 20:05|Tottenham Hotspur
Jack Roles felt like he answered many of his own questions during his loan spell at Cambridge United.
A regular goal-getter throughout his time in our Academy, the attacking midfielder took part in some of our first team pre-season matches last summer before linking up with Cambridge for their 2019/20 League Two campaign.
The 21-year-old swiftly made an impression in what was his first season in competitive men’s football, amassing 25 appearances and five goals before the outbreak of coronavirus brought proceedings at that level to a premature end.
Reflecting on his stay with the U’s, he said the broad range of experiences he gained on and off the pitch – plus the affirmation of his ability to score goals against older players – has stood him in great stead as he looks to continue his development.
“I just felt like I was opening up to a new world, a different style of the game,” he said. “I felt like I was well prepared going into it and I thought I knew what to expect – I got that knowledge from all the coaches at Spurs, because they prepare us well and let us know what we’re going to be in for.
“I’ve always wanted to score goals and when I scored that first one in the league against Mansfield (September, 2019), it was a massive, massive relief because you go on loan thinking, ‘can I do it in the league? Can I do it against experienced professionals?’ So when I scored it was great because it showed me that I could compete with those players. To be able to go on and score five goals… I’d set myself a target for double figures, but the season got cut short unfortunately.
“Another thing I learned is that games are always coming thick and fast, so it’s important not to dwell on things too much – when it’s good, don’t get too high and when it’s low, don’t get too down on yourself because there’s always another training session, there’s always another game to show what you’re about. That’s what I’ve learned. If you haven’t played at your best on a Saturday, you’ve got Monday to try to put it right in training and then you’ve probably got a game on Tuesday as well, which is an even better place to put it right. You’ve got to be ready as much as you can to give it your all, all the time.”
October Goal Of The Month??????♂? pic.twitter.com/AdKLf77zpK— Jack Roles (@JackRoles_) November 15, 2019
Jack certainly experienced plenty of ups and downs during his stint with United. He was starting games and scoring goals during the first half of the campaign, including the League Two Goal of the Month in a 2-2 draw with Macclesfield Town during October, but the departure of ex-Spur Colin Calderwood as manager in January – who was instrumental in providing the initial opportunity for the young midfielder thanks to his strong links with us – plus a niggling injury that kept him out of action for a few weeks around the same time meant he saw all different facets of the game.
“It’s never good when the manager leaves or you get injured but you go out on loan to learn and to experience new things, and by me doing that, I’ve definitely experienced all of those things,” he explained. “When Colin lost his job, you had to adapt to a new style – the assistant manager Mark Bonner took over and it was about adjusting to his philosophy and his style of play. It’s just really about adapting all the time. When I got injured I was in the team, so when I came back I had to find a way to get back into the starting XI, to stand out in training and do what I could when I came off the bench, so I’ve had loads of challenges this season but I feel like I’ve dealt with them well. I need to keep going and keep improving though.”
In what turned out to be his final outing for Cambridge on 7 March, Jack found himself playing against young Spurs team-mate George Marsh, who was on loan at opponents Leyton Orient: “I think he challenged me a couple of times when I came on in that game – it was a good rivalry we had going on!” the midfielder smiled. “With my last kick of the ball for Cambridge, I cut in from the left, had a shot and the goalie – it was Lawrence Vigouroux, who also played for Spurs – tipped it around the post for a corner in literally the last minute of the game. That would have been the equaliser against our rivals so it would have been a great way to go, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Jack also inherited a new nickname during his time at United, becoming known as ‘The Wizard’ among the Abbey fraternity: “It was the Cambridge twitter admin!” he laughed. “After my debut, he tweeted Tottenham, saying something like ‘this player you’ve given us on loan, is he actually a wizard?’ After that it just stuck, everyone latched onto it, the fans, the players started calling me it in training as well! It was overwhelming – I’ve never had anything like that before. But it was an affinity that the people at the club had with me and every time I went out to play in front of the fans at the Abbey, I wanted to show them what I could do and impress them. It’s a great feeling to know before the game that people are excited to watch you play and I think I was really able to enjoy and benefit from that. I’m very grateful to everyone at Cambridge – and obviously Colin too, even though he’s moved on now – for everything they’ve done for me and I hope I’ve been able to contribute to their season in some way.”
Is the door now closed on the ‘Wizard’ moniker as Jack looks to push on and continue to develop in the months and years ahead? “I don’t know,” he replied. “As long as I’m playing well, I don’t really mind what people want to call me!”