Sandwich born centre forward Frank Roberts began his football career playing for hometown junior clubs Sandbach Villa in 1911 and Sandbach Ramblers in 1912. He was transferred to Crewe Alexandra in 1913 and in May 1914 Bolton Wanderers paid £200 for his services, with his Football League debut coming that October at Bradford Park Avenue, with Roberts scoring 10 goals in 35 games in his debut season. Roberts guested for West Ham United during World War I, scoring 18 goals in 20 appearances between 1917 and 1919. Despite hauls of 26 goals in 1919-20, 24 in 1920-21 and 19 in 1921-22, Roberts was suspended and transfer listed by Bolton in the October 1922 ‘for taking over (the management of) one of the principal hotels in that town’.
The same month Manchester City paid £3,400 for Roberts’ transfer after 80 goals in 168 appearances for The Trotters. He scored his first goal for City in a 2-0 victory over his former team Bolton Wanderers in his fifth game. He scored ten goals in his first season with the team and was City’s third highest goalscorer behind Horace Barnes who scored 21 and Tommy Johnson with 15. In 1923-1924 Roberts scored 14 League goals and 4 goals in the FA Cup including a brace against Halifax Town in a second round replay. City reached the semi final of that year’s competition but were defeated 2-0 by eventual winners Newcastle United. In 1924-1925 he scored 31 League goals making him the First Division’s top scorer. Roberts’ goalscoring exploits earned him a call up to the England team, making his début for England in a 4-0 victory over Belgium in December 1924. Roberts earned four caps in total for his national team with 3 caps coming in the spring of 1925, Roberts scoring a brace in a 2-1 victory over Wales that February at Swansea, and further caps against Scotland in April and France in May. He also played once for The Football League.
In 1925-1926 Roberts scored 9 goals in the FA Cup and Manchester City reached the Final of that year’s competition. In Round 5 he scored 5 goals as Manchester City demolished Crystal Palace 11-4. Roberts’ former team, Bolton Wanderers, defeated City 1-0 in the final with David Jack scoring the only goal. Roberts was City’s top scorer in the League that season with 21 goals. Two of these goals came in a record 6-1 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Despite this victory and the acquisition of Jimmy McMullan from Partick Thistle, City were relegated to the Second Division.
In 1926-1927 Roberts scored 14 goals and City came third in the Second Division behind Middlesbrough and Portsmouth. In 1927-1928 Roberts was City’s top scorer with 20 goals as the team were crowned Second Division Champions earning them promotion back to the First Division. In 1928-1929 City finished 8th in the First Division, seven points behind Champions Sheffield Wednesday. Roberts made only 14 league appearances that season and scored 6 goals. The season was to be Roberts’ last with City. In total he made 237 appearances for City and scored 130 goals. He ended his career playing for non league Manchester Central in 1929 and Horwich RMI in 1930.
NB In the photograph, taken (probably) at Hyde Road on 18th November 1922, Roberts (who scored in a 2-0 win for City) is out-jumped by Bolton’s Jimmy Seddon.