Hawks sign ‘best striker’ in National League South after former Oxford United forward James Roberts is unveiled as first new arrival for 2021/22
Hawks boss Paul Doswell believes the club have landed the 'best striker' in the National League South after unveiling James Roberts as their first summer signing.
The former Oxford United attacker, 24, has moved to Westleigh Park for an undisclosed fee from league rivals Oxford City.
Roberts arrives at the Hawks on the back of a fine season with City, netting 11 goals in just 15 National League South appearances before the season curtailment because of the pandemic.
Only three players scored more goals in the division in 2020/21 - Dorking’s Jason Prior (15), Hungerford’s Ryan Seager (14) and Billericay’s Jake Robinson (12).
Doswell has no doubts his new addition, subject of a bid from a League Two club earlier this year, could cut it playing in the EFL.
But the Hawks boss is delighted Roberts has opted to stay in the sixth tier and help the club in the pursuit for promotion next season.
Doswell said: 'For me, I felt he was the best striker in the National South. A League Two club showed interest in January and put in a substantial offer for James.
‘He didn’t want to move up north because that’s where the move was available.
‘He’s someone who we liked, I didn’t know if it was achievable for us to go get him, there were certain things which worked in our favour.
‘When we got together - to be honest, within about one or two minutes we were very clear what we wanted to do - I think what we’re trying to do fits in with James’ lifestyle which is important as well.
‘I honestly believe he could have gone and played League Two football next season.
‘But he’s chosen a slightly different path, that’s full credit to him, he knows his own mind which not many players do.
‘He’s very strong in his opinions, which I like, he’s taken a view he wants to spend two years with us and wants to get us in the National League, he wants to enjoy his football and enjoy his time away from football.
‘It’s a statement signing. We’ve got other statement signings coming but I’m pretty clear that I felt - Tommy Wright would have a view on this - let’s put it this way, in terms of any opposition teams that I watched, James is a bit different.
‘He’s not a typical second striker, he’s certainly not a number nine, he’s got parts to his game I really like.'
After coming through the ranks at League One Oxford United, Roberts was sent out on loan to five clubs - including two loan spells at Oxford City - before eventually departing the U's in October 2018.
He had made seven first team starts for United, with 27 as a sub, scoring five times - including two on his first professional start against Grimsby Town in an FA Cup tie when he was 19.
Brief spells at Hereford and Spennymoor Town in National League North followed prior to joining Oxford City permanently at the start of last season.
Roberts enjoyed the best campaign of his career on a personal level, netting 11 league goals. He was also on target in the Hoops' FA Cup first round victory over three divisions higher Northampton.
Roberts’ goals had helped Oxford to fourth place, two points behind second-placed Dartford with two games in hand, when 2020/21 was declared null and void in mid-February.
Doswell reckons his new arrival has moved to Westleigh Park at a perfect time in his career - and feels Roberts is only going to improve.
The Hawks boss said: 'In fairness, last year was probably his best year and he would say that.
‘Like all of us, we’ve all played, you have good seasons or bad seasons. I think last year was an exceptional season for him.
‘James is at the stage of his career now from 24 to when he finishes, I think it’ll just be good seasons for him.
‘He’s got that experience now to know what it takes to be a good player.'
Roberts joins Wright and Joe Iaciofano as forward options for the 2021/22 season which is due to begin in early August.