For 14 years, Cal Roberts lived the dream of every boyhood Newcastle United fan. 

The tricky winger with an eye for goal was snapped up by the Magpies at the age of eight.

Roberts quickly rose through the ranks, and there was even a goal on his full debut in a thrilling extra-time victory in the FA Cup.

But following the "best season" of his career, Roberts' black and white dream was shattered in a single meeting.

The United academy graduate faced an uncertain summer, and several unsuccessful trials made the 22-year-old question his future in the sport.

Callum Roberts
Callum Roberts

Roberts has now found a new home at National League North side Blyth Spartans, and under former Magpies midfielder Lee Clark the winger is flourishing.

Speaking days after signing a contract at Croft Park until the end of the season, Roberts has opened up on the "shock" of his United release, enjoying his football again at Blyth, and how he still harbours an ambition to play in the Premier League.

He said: "Newcastle made me the player and person that I am. I don't hold any bad feelings to them for letting us go when I thought they shouldn't have. I don't hold grudges with anyone.

"I played with some great players and have been coached by some great managers over the years. I've had great relationships with everyone I've worked with. I couldn't say anything bad about the club to be honest."

"Wow, I'm making my debut for the team I've always wanted to play for"

Born and raised in Wallsend, Roberts trained in his early years for both Newcastle United and Sunderland before committing to the Magpies.

Roberts starred for United's under-18 side while still at school in the 2012/13 campaign, and was unsurprisingly given a scholarship at the age of 16.

On January 3, 2015, the winger took the next step and was given his first-team debut by interim boss John Carver aged just 17. Roberts replaced Haris Vuckic in the 79th minute of the FA Cup defeat at Leicester City, a memory which he still treasures.

Callum Roberts
Callum Roberts

He said: "It was getting towards the end of the game and I got told to go warm up. Five minutes later, he said he was going to bring me on.

"You just don't know what to think. You just think wow, I'm making my debut for the team I've always wanted to play for.

"It was a good experience and a good feeling.”

Despite the early breakthrough, Roberts would have to wait four more years to make his second and final appearance for United.

A fortnight after his run-out at the King Power Stadium, the winger spent a month on loan at Gateshead FC along with Adam Campbell.

Injuries at United cut short his stint on the other side of the Tyne, and Roberts continued to make a name for himself with impressive displays at under-23 level.

The winger was capped at England under-20 level, but had to wait two more years before his next loan move to Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock under the tutelage of future Blyth Spartans manager Lee Clark.

Cal Roberts, Freddie Woodman and Sean Longstaff
Cal Roberts, Freddie Woodman and Sean Longstaff

Roberts made the temporary move north with Sean Longstaff and Freddie Woodman, and despite struggling to nail down a regular starting spot he believes it was the most productive of his loan spells.

The Wallsend-born winger said: "It was obviously a little harder moving away from home for the first time but I lived with Sean and Freddie so it wasn't too bad.

"I've never clicked so quick with lads in the dressing room. It was quite a young team at the time and everybody got along. It was perfect for us three lads."

"I think I was unfortunate with the manager changes"

Reflecting on his time in black and white, the 22-year-old is reluctant to highlight causes which ultimately led to his release. Roberts however does admit the change of managers disrupted his route to the first team.

He said: "I think I was unfortunate with the manager changes, because I think if Alan Pardew or JC had stayed I think I would have got more of a chance. But the change of managers leads to a change of plans.

“Pardew was really good with young players, and me in particular. He would speak to us all the time in training, he'd tell me what I can do better, tell me what I was doing well at.

Callum Roberts of Newcastle United (10) scores the equalising goal from the penalty spot
Callum Roberts of Newcastle United (10) scores the equalising goal from the penalty spot

"Then Carver took over with Peter [Beardsley], and I think that was a big help in my debut because I had a really good relationship with Peter. We got on really well together, obviously he was a player who played in my position so he helped me a lot.

"When Steve McClaren was there, I got the impression he really didn't fancy us. He would put others ahead of me who had never been ahead of me before."

Roberts finished: "It's just whatever the manager fancies at the end of the day.

"The only thing you can control is your performances, and if he thinks your performances aren't good enough he's never going to pick you.”

"It was probably the best moment in my career so far"

Roberts trained with the first-team squad and was involved in Rafa Benitez' pre-season preparations on his return to United. The winger's highlight in black and white came under the popular Spanish boss when he was picked to make his full debut in the FA Cup third-round replay at Blackburn.

Roberts said: "Benitez would always set his team up the day before in training to work on the shape and set pieces to get you prepared.

"At the start of every session he'd read the team out and say to these lads put the bibs on, you're starting tomorrow.

"I wasn't expecting it all, so when he read my name out I was shocked. I thought I was going to be on the bench just to make the numbers up.

"I didn't know what to do with myself."

Newcastle players celebrate after Cal Roberts (37) scores Newcastle's second goal during the FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United at Ewood Park
Newcastle players celebrate after Cal Roberts (37) scores Newcastle's second goal during the FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United at Ewood Park

Roberts started alongside Sean Longstaff in an unfamiliar central midfield role, but both made it a night to remember with early strikes at Ewood Park.

Roberts doubled the lead in the 22nd minute with a first-time finish that ranks as the "best moment" of his career so far".

Describing the goal, he said: "We did lots of work the day before on getting across the front of your man for crosses, and I remember Jacob Murphy looking up to cross it.

"I've just made that run across the front of my man and it came off my weak foot perfect.

"I didn't think I could use my right foot ever so when that's come off perfect, I was buzzing."

"I was in shock. I didn't know what to say"

Less than two months later, Roberts went from the highest point of his United career to his lowest.

The winger made the matchday squads for the Premier League victories over Cardiff City and Manchester City, before heading on loan to Colchester United.

It was during this spell when he was summoned to meet with former under-23s coach Ben Dawson at the team hotel in London following a midweek fixture in the capital.

Rumours had spread Roberts was set to be released, but the winger's form in the Checkatrade Trophy and progress with the first-team led him to dismiss them.

Speaking honestly on the heartbreaking decision, he said: "It was a weird one, I thought I had the best season of my career.

Cal Roberts gives the thumbs up
Cal Roberts gives the thumbs up

"I scored a number of goals in the U23s, I got a number of assists and scored for the first team. I made the bench twice in the Premier League which I'd never done before. I was going into this meeting confident.

"When he told us I was not going to get a contract, I was in shock. I didn't know what to say."

The news rocked Roberts, and he admits he was not in the "best place" for the remainder of his spell at Colchester.

The winger added: "I never thought about playing for anybody else. Newcastle was always the team I'd wanted to play for.

"Everybody in the city wants to do what you do. When that was taken away, I was shell-shocked.

"It was quite a hard time and I didn't want to think about or play football because it was such a big blow."

"I've never been happier at a football club"

Roberts knuckled down for the final months of his spell on Tyneside in the under-23s before the search for a new club began.

Trials at Burnley, Middlesbrough and Southend United proved fruitless, and it was during these months the 22-year-old with bills and a mortgage to pay considered his future in football.

He said: "It was probably the worst time I've been through, I was starting to think nothing was going to come up. You just keep thinking is this game really for me? "

It was at this point he received a text message from Spartans' boss Lee Clark. The pair had remained in contact from their time at Kilmarnock, and former United and Sunderland midfielder invited Roberts in for a chat.

He said: "I wanted to play at the highest level I could, I hadn't thought about dropping down.

Cal Roberts celebrating a goal for Blyth Spartans
Cal Roberts celebrating a goal for Blyth Spartans

Roberts quickly endeared himself to the Spartans' supporters with a remarkable run of nine goals in nine games including a hat-trick against Curzton Ashton.

The incredible run prompted talk of an EFL move, and the academy graduate remains open in his aim to play in the Premier League one day.

But Roberts has put pen to paper on a deal with the Spartans until the end of the season, indicating he has never felt happier at any other club including United.

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He said: "When I first came it was good, and the reception I got when I signed the contract made us feel special and part of the club.

"I've never felt like this at a club before, you feel like you're wanted there and happy. I've never been happier at a football club than I am at the minute."

Roberts finished: "I set my standards very high, and I always want to better myself. The aim is still to play in the Premier League.

"At the minute I'm very happy playing at Blyth, but the club and the gaffer knows I want to play at the highest level."