Belfast born centre forward Fred Roberts began his football career with junior clubs Bandon, Ravenscroft and Intermediate League Newington Rangers before joining Belfast Celtic before winning his first silverware with Queen’s Island, the City Cup in 1925. After a spell with Broadway United, with whom he won a Junior Irish cap, he joined Glentoran in the summer of 1928, and it is for his time with The Glens that he is best known.
During season 1930-31 he scored 96 goals in competitive matches, a record in British football, 55 of these goals were scored in the Irish League, whilst the other 41 came in the four domestic cup competitions. The record is unlikely ever to be matched. Still, such goalscoring feats were not unusual for Roberts. In his five seasons at The Oval his goal tallies read: 66, 57, 96, 64 and 49; they included 40 hat-tricks and goals in the 1932 and 1933 Irish Cup successes.
It was in his record-breaking season that Roberts was awarded his only full Ireland cap but he failed to impress in a scrappy 0-0 draw against Scotland in blustery conditions at Windsor Park, Belfast, and he was subsequently overlooked as at the time Ireland were in a rare position of also having the options of Joe Bambrick and Jimmy Dunne for the number nine shirt.
In May 1933 Roberts was surprisingly released by Glentoran after 332 goals in 221 games for them. He signed with Distillery, top-scoring with 32 goals as the Whites claimed a close-fought City Cup competition in 1933-34. Later he played with Dundela before returning to the Oval as coach of Glentoran Olympic.