EVEN if news of Mark Roberts’ retirement is not entirely unexpected, it does not make it any easier for Warrington Town fans to take.

After all, this is a player who has led from the front in the club’s recent pushes for promotion.

What has been keeping him coming back is the prospect of leading his adopted hometown club into the National League North.

If any player deserved that honour, the man whose family home is just a mile from Cantilever Park would feature highly on that list.

Even while in the autumn of his career, Roberts’ higher-league experience has shone through throughout his tenure.

In the past few years, the bedrock of Yellows’ efforts has been a solid defensive base and the veteran stopper has been quite literally at the heart of that.

Who could forget that run of seven consecutive league clean sheets early in the ‘super play-off’ season of 2018-19, when he and Dave Raven were simply unbeatable at the back?

For the most part, Roberts has been a Rolls Royce-like presence and now, his retirement presents Town with an issue.

With Matt Regan having also moved on, two of the three central defenders that started the play-off final defeat to Scarborough Athletic are now unavailable to manager Mark Beesley.

Evan Gumbs remains and the ever-reliable Mitch Duggan has filled in effectively at centre-half in the past, but surely this position will now take priority in terms of recruitment.

Efforts are already underway on that score and it is believed Town are close to completing a deal for at least one new central defender from a higher level.

In such a key position, the importance of bringing in the right men to replace those that have departed cannot be overstated.

A new club captain will be needed too – vice-captain Josh Amis would appear the obvious favourite – and all who associate with Town will hope whoever gets the nod will lead in a similar way to their retired general.

Put simply, Roberts has been a totemic presence and whose influence and quality will be greatly missed.