Roberts returns to Albion

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Ben Roberts has returned to Brighton & Hove Albion as first-team goalkeeping coach.

Bishop Auckland born Roberts, who turns 40 on Monday, joins Albion from Charlton Athletic, and begins his new role immediately.

He replaces Antti Niemi who recently returned to Finland for family reasons after joining the club last summer.

Albion manager Chris Hughton told seagulls.co.uk: “We had a lot of very high calibre applicants for the job, but Ben stood out as our number one choice. His credentials are first class, and he already has an understanding of the club.

“I’m delighted to welcome him to the club and am looking forward to working with Ben.”

Roberts said, “I’m ecstatic to be back at Brighton. I’ve made no secret that my happiest years as a professional footballer were spent down here, as I had a special affinity with the fans at Withdean.

“Ever since briefly helping Dean Wilkins with the coaching in the summer of 2007, before starting university, I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to one day return as a coach.

“After speaking to Chris Hughton and Paul Barber, I am in no doubt that the time is right - the infrastructure already in place and vision of the club for the future really excites me.

“I can’t wait to get started working with David Stockdale, Casper Ankergren and Christian Walton and very much looking forward to the season ahead.”

Roberts began his playing career at Middlesbrough in 1991, and kept goal in the 1997 FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

He moved to Charlton Athletic in 2000; three years later signed for Albion, following an impressive loan spell under then-boss Steve Coppell, and in his first full season he won promotion to the Championship.

He was part of Albion’s play-off winning side of 2004, but made his final appearance in the Millennium Stadium 1-0 win over Bristol City - as the popular keeper was forced to retire due to a back injury in 2005.

After a spell out of the game, spent travelling around the world, he joined Yeovil Town as goalkeeping coach in 2009.

In 2010 he returned to Charlton - initially as goalkeeping coach, with his first game against Albion at Withdean.

Since ending his playing career he also gained a first-class honours degree in sports science and coaching.

Roberts added: “I’d like to thank Charlton Athletic; I’ve made lots of friends for life during almost five years at the club, and worked with some terrific keepers.”