Jason Roberts has enjoyed a long and successful career in the top flight of English football. He took a gamble recently by exchanging life in the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers for promising Championship wannabes Reading. The gamble paid off and as Rovers slipped down a division Jason was part of the impressive Reading team which topped the Championship. We spoke to him about his thoughts and experiences behind the wheel and discovered he’s got a real story to tell…
How old were you when you learned to drive and did you pass first time?
I passed my test when I was 19, I passed second time, but not too many people know that!
What was your motivation for wanting to pass your test?
I wanted the independence of being able to get around, that was my main motivation.
What was your first car?
It was a Vauxhall Calibra, I remember it cost me £4500 from a very good friend of mine. I always loved driving in his car so when I got a chance to buy it off him I was very happy.
So can you remember how it felt to have passed your test and to have your own car?
It was fantastic, total freedom. I could go out when I wanted to and had my complete independence, so I remember it was a great feeling.
Studies have shown of course that young men who have just passed their tests are the most likely to have an accident, why do you think that is?
It’s a little bit of bravado I think. When you’ve just passed your test you feel on top of the world and a bit like a World Rally driver for a couple of years, like you’re invincible. But at the end of the day there’s just as much responsibility on you to be a responsible driver because once you’ve got your independence and everything, that’s great, but the world can be a dangerous place.
Have you ever had an accident or been affected by a driving accident in the past?
I haven’t, thank God. But my father was in a pretty bad accident, so I do know just how dangerous the roads can be and how careful you have to be. He came off the road and hit a tree and we were told to say goodbye to him a couple of times, it was that bad, he was at death’s door for a while. That brought it home to us, really of just how careful we all have to be. I think I’ve always been a safe driver, but definitely even more so after that accident.
What lessons do you think you’ve learned over the years?
Well, I try to keep the speed down and I think I’ve learned to drive more responsibly and to make the right decisions wherever possible. Of course you’ve got even more of a responsibility to do so when you’re driving a powerful car. I also think that it’s very easy to pick up bad habits and you do develop your own style of driving after a while, some of it can often be negative too, so you’ve always got to try and bear in mind the things that you’ve been taught.
What do you drive yourself now?
I drive a BMW but I’m always aware of the fact that when you’ve got a powerful car you have got to be that little bit more careful, because they can really move.
What comparisons, if any, can you draw between the mindset you need to get behind the wheel of a car and the mindset you need when you’re on a football pitch?
Concentration and control, those are the two main mental comparisons really between football and driving, you can’t do either well without them! I try my best to be cool and calm on the football pitch but of course, as we all know, football is a very emotional game and sometimes your emotions can get the better of you. Whenever that does happen though your concentration goes and you’re not performing at your best, it’s the same when you’re driving.
How do you deal with pressure when you’re playing and when things, or other players, really wind you up?
Well you’ve just got to try and remain cool. The thing that winds me up most is not winning, I like to win and football is a results game after all, so not winning always gets to me.
Have you ever let your emotions get the better of you on the pitch and then looked back on it and thought, ‘hang on, what have I done there?’
[laughs] Every other week!
Off the pitch, are you an emotional person, do you get stressed?
Much more on the football pitch than in my everyday life, I try to always keep it in check and I’ve got better at that as I’ve got older, but it can be hard at times.
And in the car, ever had a bout of road rage?
Do you know what, I really don’t get wound up in the car. I’ve always been calm behind the wheel, there’s just no point! If I’ve got to be somewhere and you’re stuck then the way I see it is that you’ve just got to wait your turn, what is the point in getting wound up when you can’t do anything about it?
And what about distractions in the car, a lot of accidents happen when youngsters are driving with a car full of passengers. How do you deal with that when you’re driving? I imagine being a dad and having the kids in the back is a challenge?
I just try and remain as focused on the road as I can. You can only do one thing at a time and if I need to I’ll pull over and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Again though, there’s just no point in getting stressed.
Drink driving – one drink, two drinks or no drinks?
No drinks for sure.
What advice would you give to a 17-year-old lad who has just passed his driving test?
Just to be sensible, don’t try and do too much, be safe and remember what you’ve been taught.
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