Mark Roberts speaks of his shock at Gary Smith’s sacking and preparations for Tranmere

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts - Credit: Archant

MARK Roberts has spoken of his shock at Gary Smith’s dismissal as he begins his second stint as Boro’s caretaker manager.

Speaking to the media for the first time since taking his new role, Roberts said the players were surprised by Wednesday’s news that Phil Wallace had pulled the trigger on sacking Smith with seven games left in the season.

“We were all surprised,” said the 29-year-old.

“There was no hiding the fact that results of late haven’t been what we expect but we take a big responsibly for that. We’re all disappointed Gary’s time here had to end.

“He was the man that brought 95 per cent of us to the club. He invested a lot of time. So when the manager brought you to the club leaves, inevitably, players are disappointed.

“We all felt we could have done more for him because he gave us every opportunity to play to the best of our ability and we didn’t do that on a consistent basis,” he said.

“Gary was a great manager and we wish him the best for the future.”

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Stevenage started their first season in npower League One in blistering form, losing just twice in the first 12 games, but their form took a turn for the worst in December, picking up five wins as they slipped into the depths of the table.

But, despite the team’s torrid form, Roberts rubbished rumours that Smith had lost the dressing room.

“There were stand-out performances against Brentford and Sheffield United when we probably played our best this season. They were fantastic.

“But we followed them with huge disappointments. You go from such a high of winning those two games to the disappointment, not just of the result, but the performances against preston and bury.

“We were fully behind Gary and trying to turn things around, but we weren’t able to do that.”

Even with the club in a state of shock over Smith’s sacking, Roberts admitted it has to move on, starting with preparations for Tranmere on Sunday. Although he said it is a very different challenge from the first time he took the reigns.

“When the chairman asked me to take over, I felt I could do a good job and get the most out of the lads because I work alongside them and I know what makes them tick.

“But it’s a different challenge because it’s a different group of players. When I took over last time we had just beaten Reading in the FA Cup, the spirit and morale was high.

“We have been on a difficult run [this time] but there is still tremendous spirit and togetherness about the squad and it’s key that it comes to the fore on Sunday.”

He added: “There isn’t a team that wants to take the league by the scruff of the neck. It’s a very competitive league, the bottom clubs can beat the top ones, as we have shown, so if we go out there with the right frame of mind we can beat anyone.”