Gareth Roberts hailed as perfect role model for Derby County youngsters
NIGEL Clough sees experienced defender Gareth Roberts as the perfect role-model for Derby County's youngsters.
At 34, Roberts is the elder statesman of a young Rams squad.
More than a dozen of the players used this season are under 25 and nine are 21 or younger, including teenagers Mark O'Brien (19), Will Hughes (17) and Mason Bennett (16).
Clough says Roberts' know-how and professionalism is invaluable.
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The former Welsh international has played almost 600 first-team games in English football and he is exactly the type of player the rest of squad should look up to, according to the manager.
"It is important that the senior players we have in the squad are the right type given the number of young players we have around the place," said Clough.
"Gareth is one the youngsters should look up to, without any question at all.
"He is a brilliant role-model.
"It was the same when Robbie Savage was here a few years ago. He looked after himself despite being a senior player.
"He very rarely missed training and showed a real appetite for the game and Gareth is in exactly the same mould."
Roberts has started 14 of the 17 League games this season and the left-back is set to face Birmingham City at Pride Park tonight (5.20pm).
Clough believes Roberts is playing as well as ever.
"Gareth is getting better with age and we've been delighted with how he has performed this season," said Clough.
"He has just carried on where he left off last season. He is a very under-rated player.
"He's someone opposition sides probably look at to try and exploit because he's not the biggest but he wins his headers more often than not and when he comes up against pace, very few wingers out-do him on that front.
"Last weekend, he was up against the most-talked-about player in the Championship, Wilfried Zaha, but Gareth kept him quiet for almost all of the game."
Roberts started as a trainee at Liverpool and had a spell with Panionios in Greece before he went on to play for Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Rovers.
He joined Derby from Doncaster on a free in the summer of 2010.