Former Saddler looking to embark on new career...HAVING spent 13 years as a professional with The Saddlers, during which time he made almost 400 senior appearances and played his part in three promotion-winning campaigns, Ian Roper developed a reputation as a dedicated and committed performer.
His style was uncompromising but effective as he established himself as a firm favourite amongst both supporters and team-mates alike.
After retiring from the professional game in 2012 following spells with Luton Town and Kettering Town, Roper returned to education, initially doing a HND in Sports Development and Coaching, and now he has just finished his degree in Sports Performance and Coaching.
“Once my playing career came to an end I decided to do an HND in Sports Development and Coaching,” he said. “I have a real interest in coaching youngsters and have just finished my degree at Northampton University / Moulton College where I have done an BSc in Sports Performance and Coaching, with modules covering things like nutrition, coaching, strength and conditioning plus managing and leadership in sport.
“I currently deliver after-school clubs locally on a part-time basis, but my aim is to get into teaching or coaching children full-time in a Primary School and at the moment I am looking for any opportunities to get into this.
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than working with children and being able to pass on my experience and knowledge to them.
“My experience in professional football certainly helps me in this; I’ve experienced a range of different coaching methods over the years and have now increased my knowledge base to include other sports and how to impart this information to a younger audience.
“Throughout my career I learned how far hard work and application can take you and I want to help the next generation.”
Roper, who turns 37 today, will be part of the Walsall squad for the forthcoming Club Legends Cup tournament that is taking place at the LG Arena in Birmingham on Saturday, July 12th.
He joins the likes of Jorge Leitao, Pedro Matias and Zigor Aranalde in playing under their former Saddlers’ boss, Ray Graydon.
“I’m really looking forward to the tournament,” he added without hesitation. “I’ve even been doing some training to get ready for it, which is most unlike me these days!
“I still get a great buzz from playing football, even though the day after is painful now!
“Putting on a Walsall shirt again and playing in front of the fans again will be brilliant. Hopefully we can become top dogs in the Midlands and raise plenty of money for such a worthwhile cause as Cure Leukaemia.
“It will be great to see the likes of Jorge, Pedro and Zigor again. They were team-mates during my most successful time at the club and it’s been a while since we have seen each other.
“It will also be nice to play under Ray again. I enjoyed playing in his teams; it’s fair to say that we had our ups and downs during his time in charge, but that promotion-winning campaign of 1998/99 was one of my favourite moments in football, along with my senior debut in 1995 as we won 5-2 at Fulham in the Auto Windscreens Shield.
“There was such togetherness between the players and supporters. To hear the fans chant my name before games gave me so much encouragement and just made me even more determined to go out and give 100% for them, which I would like to think that I did throughout my time at Walsall.
“The fans voted me as Young Player of the Season and Player of the Season and I will never forget the reception that they gave me when I came back to Banks’s Stadium with Luton Town.
“It makes me proud to think that I helped the club compete in what is now The Championship. Testing myself against quality opposition and helping the club defy the odds to stay at that level was really special.
“Walsall FC will always have a special place in my heart; the club played a big part of my life for so long and its always the result that I look for first.
“Dean Smith is doing a good job and hopefully this will continue.
“I haven’t really stayed in touch with many of my former team-mates, although it was nice to see Matty Fryatt in the FA Cup Final at the end of last season. I enjoy playing for the Walsall All Stars team and catching up with old friends whilst raising money for good causes.”